EDITOR’S NOTE: The EOC held a full meeting today at 1:00 p.m. at the Blatt Building in Columbia. Recommendations to the budget were made at this meeting.
EOC policy and budget recommendations focused on readying students for college and careers and strengthening the teaching profession
As required by state law, the Education Oversight Committee (EOC) today approved budget recommendations for Fiscal Year 2021-2022. These recommendations focus on the revenues generated by the one-cent sales tax dedicated to public education, the Education Improvement Act. The committee’s recommendations are dedicated to improving educational opportunities for students and to supporting the teaching profession. These recommendations will be forwarded to the Governor and General Assembly for their consideration in the upcoming budget deliberations.
Members met throughout the fall, reviewing and hearing public comment on the budget needs. The most recent revenue projections for Fiscal Year 2021-22, issued by the Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) in November, show a $17.7 million surplus for 2020-21. The estimated growth estimate for fiscal year 2021-22 is $44.7 million. As compared to Pre-COVID projections, EIA growth was reduced by over $50 million.
The educational and financial impact of COVID-19 forced the subcommittee to take a hard look at where our priorities are as a state, said Dr. Bob Couch, chair of subcommittee that brought forth the recommendation to the EOC and Vice-Chairman of the EOC.
“The committee had to prioritize state funding to the most critical tasks facing our schools today – ensuring that all students graduate college, career and citizenship ready and that we work to strengthen the teaching profession during extremely challenging times,” said Couch.
In addition to making specific strategic recommendations, the committee suggests the General Assembly look at the funding structure of charter schools, public schools which currently rely on EIA funds for their local funding revenue. The increase in parents choosing to enroll their student in charter schools threatens long-term sustainability for charter funding and may continue to reduce the amount of new revenue available to other EIA programs and projects.
Couch stated that the committee thought it was time to look at the funding formula of all public schools. The Office of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs (RFA) proposed a new Education Funding Model in 2019, but did not look at public charter schools. Couch said that the RFA’s work would provide “a great starting point” for future conversations.
The EOC also affirmed the need to refocus EIA funding around clearly defined goals and outcomes.
“While funding many commendable programs, EIA funding has become disjointed and must be refocused around a high-level strategic plan designed to support students and educators with the greatest efficiency and measurable impact,” stated EOC Chair Ellen Weaver.
“The EOC will collaborate with key stakeholders to clearly articulate strategic goals and align the application process and future funding decisions around that plan,” stated Weaver.
The Committee’s budget recommendations for the EIA are summarized below:
Student College and Career Readiness
- Increased funding of $56,000 National Student Clearinghouse for the purpose of providing an accurate picture of every South Carolina high school graduate’s enrollment and success in a two/four-year colleges/universities/technical colleges/community colleges (in-state and out-of-state);
- Increased funding of $29.2 million for charter schools to reflect increased enrollment;
- Increase in funding of $2.4 million for industry certifications and credentials to ensure that the state pays for exams that high school students take to earn industry credentials needed for the available jobs in our state;
- Increase in funding of $4.0 million to increase the number of classrooms in public-funded four-year-old kindergarten, a phase-in to a statewide expansion of full day 4K;
- Increase in $2 million for the development and implementation of a learner validated funding pilot for charter schools, to incentivize increased college and career readiness in charter high schools. The learner validated funding model would also serve as a supplement to the current base charter funding level;
- Modeled after Summer Reading Camps, an increase of funding of $2.5 million for COVID Academic Recovery Camps, designed to help students who experience learning loss during the pandemic time period;
- $2.5 million to expand the work SC Department of Commerce and Tallo, an online platform that connects SC students with career and educational opportunities;
- Increased funding of $1.5 million in non-recurring funds for artificial intelligence curriculum in South Carolina as a pathway in career and technical education (CTE).
- Increased funding of $15.8 million in non-recurring funds for instructional materials with a priority for instructional materials that are evidence-based in English language arts, mathematics, and social studies.
Strengthening the Teaching Profession
- Increased funding of $250,000 for the development of an anonymous Teacher Working Conditions Survey, the results of which would guide policymakers in addressing the teacher shortage;
- And $1 million increase to support the expansion of Teaching Fellows, ProTeam, and Teacher Cadets, SC programs that encourage and attract high school students to the teaching profession.
The SC Education Oversight Committee is an independent, non-partisan group made up of 18 educators, business persons, and elected leaders. Created in 1998, the committee is dedicated to reporting facts, measuring change, and promoting progress within South Carolina’s education system.