Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota are both prominent Republican governors. Both face huge budget shortfalls, and both have criticized the federal stimulus program. But the Minnesota Governor is not refusing the stimulus money. He has added hundreds of millions of dollars to restore cuts in K-12 education funding, at the expense of reducing spending on health care.
In our state, Republican State Senator Hugh Leatherman says refusing stimulus money would set us back a generation. He understands that education is an investment in our state's economy.
Our low high school graduation rate, 56%, is some evidence of this state's failure to invest in education. 85% of Minnesota high school students graduate.
To put it bluntly, South Carolina needs to stop bleeding our public schools to even have a chance of reducing the dropout rate. Raising our high school graduation rate to just the national average, 68%, would put this state in much better shape to weather future recessions.
Under funded, understaffed public schools will only create more students lagging national norms and eventually lagging in personal income. We will fail the next generation if we give high-paying industries another reason to avoid South Carolina.