COLUMBIA, SC — Of the nearly 200 budget vetoes Gov. Nikki Haley has issued during her three years as governor, no government service has been struck more than public education.
A review of the governor’s budget vetoes shows the first-term Republican has vetoed $110 million worth of public education programs and services since 2011, vetoes that account for more than a quarter of the $419 million she has vetoed in state spending since 2011.
This summer, as Haley prepares to launch her re-election campaign, she plans to announce an “education reform package” heading into the 2014 legislative session. It’s part of the education “conversation” she has been having with lawmakers and interested parties since her State of the State address in January.
But House and Senate lawmakers have overridden most of the money she has vetoed in education spending, raising questions about whether Haley can come to an agreement with the Legislature on meaningful reform.
“Look at what she has stated through her veto pen is not worthy of support,” Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, said. “It gives me real concern, and it gives a window into who she is as a governor.”
But Haley’s education vetoes have declined dramatically since her first year in office, when Haley vetoed $95 million worth of public education programs, including $50 million in direct classroom spending and $12 million to purchase new school buses. In 2012, Haley vetoed $12.9 million in public education money, including $10 million in salary increases for teachers. This year, Haley’s education vetoes totaled $2.5 million.
Some of Haley’s largest education vetoes – $50 million in classroom spending and $10 million for teacher salaries – came because lawmakers used one-time money to pay for an annual expense, a budgeting practice Haley has consistently vetoed across all of state government.
Haley could have added another huge education veto this year – a $26 million expansion of the state’s 4-year-old kindergarten program for poor children, a program supported by her chief Democratic rival state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Kershaw County.
But Haley did not veto the program, saying in a Tuesday news conference she was willing to give it a try.
“I’m not going to say my way is the only way to do it,” Haley said, comments that legislative education leaders said were encouraging for reaching an education compromise.
“What she said there is kind of in line with what her tone has been throughout the year,” said Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington and the chairman of the education budget subcommittee. “What she’s said all along is, ‘Let’s work together.’ ”
A key supporter Haley will need in any bipartisan education reform package is Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington. Setzler said Thursday that he has not met with the governor about education in about 45 days.
But he said she has asked for the names of teachers and principals to meet to get their input on education reforms – something Haley alluded to during her Tuesday news conference.
“I want any governor to be out front pushing for public education in this state,” Setzler said.
But when asked if Haley is doing that, Setzler replied: “I’ll let you make that judgment.”
Any education reform package from Haley will most likely include a school-choice component. The 2013-14 state budget makes up to $8 million available in tax deductions to people or businesses who donate to scholarships for disabled children to attend private schools – which critics have assailed as a backdoor way of giving public money to private schools.
“I’ve always been a school-choice fan,” Haley said during her Tuesday news conference. “I’ve often said we have school choice in preschool, we have school choice in higher (education), why do we not have school choice in the years that matter most, which is K-12?”
School choice will be a major issue for state education groups, such as the S.C. Education Association.
“I would like to see that debate centered on how we improve the public school system in South Carolina,” said Roger Smith, the association’s executive director. “I think you need to include all the stakeholders if you are going to have that conversation.”
Note: Our complete list of Haley vetoes and the General Assembly's votes on them might not appear below on all devices. If you don't see it, try viewing this story on our full site, or click here.
What the colors mean
General appropriations vetos
Capital Reserve Fund vetoesVideo: Haleys veto news conference (afternoon of June 25)
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.