Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s $6.9 billion executive budget, unveiled Monday, does little to pay for the state’s crumbling roads.
Instead, Haley’s budget proposal pushes a multiyear plan to recruit teachers to the state’s rural schools, which are suing the state.
Haley’s proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would add $61.4 million a year to the state’s budget to repair South Carolina’s roads.
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Haley would add that money to roads by shifting half of the state’s sales tax on car sales from the general fund, where the money now helps pay for other state operations, including education and Medicaid.
The added $61.4 million barely puts a dent in the added $1.5-billion-a-year that the state Transportation Department says it needs to repair and expand roads.
However, Haley said Monday that she will release her plan to address the state’s road-funding deficit by the end of the month.
State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, said he agreed with Haley’s proposal to divert the car sales tax money to roads, adding that move is one that his House roads panel is considering.
Recruiting teachers to rural schools
The executive budget proposal is important because it indicates what Haley’s priorities will be during the legislative session that starts at noon Tuesday. Lawmakers will begin crafting their own budget plans soon after they convene their new session.
The governor, who starts her second, four-year term Wednesday, proposes expanding on education changes passed last year by spending an added $6.4 million for reading coaches statewide.
Her budget also includes phasing in a plan to help attract teachers to the state’s rural school districts.
“We need good, strong teachers to teach in rural school districts,” Haley said, outlining the recruiting initiative.
Haley’s budget includes $1.5 million to kick off a plan to attract teachers to the rural school districts with the highest turnover.
Her plan would phase out extra pay for teachers who get national board certification. Teachers who already receive extra pay for that certification would not have their salaries reduced. However, once the certification is phased out in 10 years, the state would have an added $55 million a year to attract teachers to rural areas.
Haley’s plan would:
• Pay for students entering college to get a four-year degree if they agree to teach for eight years in a high-turnover district
• Pay $7,500 a year toward a teacher’s student loans for up to five years if they teach for four years in a rural district with high turnover
• Pay new teachers in rural districts as if they have five years of experience
• Pay for teachers to get graduate degrees if they currently are teaching in or move to a rural district with high turnover
• An experienced teacher in a rural, high-turnover district who mentors new teachers in that district would get an extra $5,000 a year for the first five years.
The incentives are intended to attract new teachers to live in the rural communities.
Students need to see their teachers in the community — at church, the grocery store or the pharmacy, Haley said.
“They need to know that (teachers are) a part of the communities, and that it’s a proud place to live,” Haley said. “And they need to see the same teachers from year to year so that they know that it’s a valuable place to live, work and raise a family.”
Haley’s plan earned praise from incoming Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.
“(W)e couldn’t be more excited that the governor’s executive budget invests even more in South Carolina’s schools, especially in the recruitment and retention of teachers in rural districts,” said Spearman, R-Saluda.
A provision in Haley’s budget proposal also would allow Spearman to contract with a school operator, including a charter school operator, to manage a school if the state declares it failing.
Hiring more Social Services workers
Haley’s budget also includes $7.1 million in new money to hire more caseworkers and assistants at the embattled Department of Social Services, which has been under fire for the deaths of children under its protection.
That added money includes $1.8 million for a 10 percent pay increase for most workers at that agency. Social Services needs to hire more staffers to help its overloaded caseworkers. But adding staffers is difficult because of the agency’s high turnover, caused, in part, by low pay.