Education, faster internet top priorities in ‘conservative’ SC House budget

Education, faster internet top priorities in ‘conservative’ SC House budget

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina House members passed the state’s $9 billion budget with a focus on improving education in the state.

The vote was 112-6.

The budget now heads for a third, procedural vote before being sent to the Senate.

Lawmakers say the budget they passed is conservative because they do not yet know how much money they will have to spend this year.

Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, says he expects state revenue to go up as COVID-19 cases go down, but that’s something lawmakers can’t bank on, yet.

So the budget is addressing top priorities for now.

“We prepare for the worst, but hope for the best,” Smith said.

One of his top concerns going into writing the budget was education, he said.

“We are about to have a lost generation of children by missing two school years of in-person learning, so I think it’s incumbent upon us to make sure we devote the majority of our resources to education so we don’t lose these children that are currently falling behind,” Smith said.

The budget includes the following points:

  • $5.5 million to find a full-time nurse in every school
  • $10 million to expand 4K education for about 600 more students
  • $15 million to grow public charter schools
  • $48 million for new instructional materials like textbooks

Education Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Raye Felder, R-York, said the funding for school nurses will be critical to getting kids back to school.

“We are going to have students that have social and emotional needs that are going to need medical assistance, if you will, or medical advice to help these kids transition back to what used to be a ‘normal’ routine,” he said.

Felder also says allocating 30 million for broadband expansion will help kids across the state.

“When you have three or four children at home trying to do schoolwork on a dial-up connection, it’s not very productive,” Felder said.

Some Democrats think more money for broadband and education should be in the budget now, especially when compared to the $90 million being allocated to the state’s Department of Corrections.

“The comparison for other things versus the broadband, we say we want our children to do good and have good educational experiences,” Rep. Jermaine Johnson, D-Richland said. “If you look at the funding, we aren’t funding its property.”

But Republicans say there will be more money to go around this Summer.

The budget also includes $50 million in a rainy day fund to be used for disaster relief for cases like natural disasters or any future pandemics.

Copyright 2021 WIS. All rights reserved.