New online dashboard reveals how SC school districts spend billions in taxpayer dollars

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Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 7:28 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Every year, public schools in South Carolina receive billions of dollars between them in taxpayer money, breaking down to about $17,000 per student this year.

Now South Carolinians can see how their local districts are spending those dollars, all from the convenience of their computers or phones.

In last year’s budget, state lawmakers implemented a new formula intended to simplify how schools are funded.

As part of that, they also required the creation of a new, online dashboard to provide unprecedented transparency into where this money is going.

“When we all got together and determined it was time to have a new, not-so-complicated formula so we could make some sense out of it, we realized that you can’t manage it if you can’t measure it, so this is how we’re measuring it right here,” Gov. Henry McMaster said.

The governor joined South Carolina’s superintendent of education and Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office at the State House on Wednesday to unveil the new Education Funding Dashboard.

“The dashboard is designed for users to do their own research and do their own analysis and come to their own conclusion,” Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Executive Director Frank Rainwater said.

It allows viewers to see statewide data, like how money is being spent across all districts and where those dollars are coming from.

It also offers district-by-district looks, seeing how individual districts stack up against statewide averages, and comparisons between districts on data like average teacher salaries, students per teacher, rainy-day fund balances, and how their revenue per student correlates to test scores.

“There’s not a correlation really between inputs and outputs when it comes to money and student outcomes,” Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver said the data shows.

Weaver said this dashboard also allows the state to take an honest look at where it is and use this data to figure out how to get where it wants to be while building trust through transparency.

“Sunshine is always the best disinfectant, and as I’ve shared often with the educators that I’ve been privileged to talk to, when we have nothing to hide, we can put it all out on the table,” she said.

The dashboard currently includes data from the 2021-2022 school year, which districts reported to the Department of Education.

Rainwater said they hope to add more data as it becomes available, including, possibly, individual school breakdowns.

The Education Funding Dashboard is available online through the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, by clicking here.

It’s best viewed on a desktop or laptop, though you can access it on a smartphone.

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