COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP/SCRN/WVOC) - Republicans say K-12 public schools are a big winner in the House budget plan, but Democrats say the plan still doesn't meet the state's obligation to education.
A 115-to-2 vote late Tuesday in the House gave key approval to its $7-billion spending plan for state taxes.
It adds more than $180-million to K-through-12 education in the fiscal year starting July 1st, as well as $12-million toward covering school district employees' rising health insurance premiums.
But Democratic Richland County Representative James Smith says that's still far from where the funding should be.
“When it comes to saying and believing education is number one, it shouldn't stop when it's time to write the check,” Smith said. “And for too long, we have continued to fail to fund minimally-adequate education in South Carolina, which hardly seems like something to aspire to.”
Smith proposed increasing the "base student cost" under a formula set by a 1977 state law that's adjusted annually for inflation.
That would have cost an additional $537-million and Smith suggested taking it out of health insurance for state employees.
But Republican Charleston County Representative Jim Merrill feels that was unrealistic.
“We did most of what the governor recommended for education. And I think that's an outstanding yeoman's effort to get to that point,” Merrill said.
House Republicans rejected Smith's proposal, and the budget plan goes next to the Senate.