COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman spent Thursday morning snacking on yam sticks and strawberries with Lexington One third graders. She said moments like those remind her of why she went to Columbia to fight.
Her latest fight? Replacing the state's aging school buses.
"Most of our children in South Carolina ride the bus to school, and we want it to be safe. We transport over 350,000 students a day," Spearman said.
More than half the state's buses are 15 years old or older. So, this week, when Governor Henry McMaster vetoed roughly $20 million to buy new buses, Spearman spoke out. She wants lawmakers to come back to Columbia to override his veto this summer, not when the new session begins in January.
"I do expect the override will happen. The question, right now, is when it will happen," she said.
So far, lawmakers haven't decided whether or not they'll come back to talk buses this year.
"I can't think of anything more important than the safety of our children," Spearman added.
The superintendent said quick action would have a big impact. If lawmakers do return to the State House this summer and vote to send the funding to buses, she said she'd be able to get the wheels turning on buying about 260 new buses – new buses that she said would be used this upcoming school year.
"It would make a tremendous dent in this issue," Spearman said.
Jennifer Vitale, whose daughter is getting ready to be a third grader at Lexington Elementary, hopes lawmakers will act soon, too.
"If they don't come back early, I would definitely encourage that they address this situation immediately when they return," Vitale said.
Thursday, a Republican lawmaker told WIS there's a very good chance lawmakers will soon return to approve the funding for buses. He said it would be bad public relations to wait until January.
Governor Henry McMaster has said, if lawmakers think buses are important, they should pass permanent funds and not bank on lottery funds that aren't guaranteed.
Spearman said she needs any money she can get – no matter where it comes from.
"In fact, we may have to start passing a hat," she said.