As part of our coverage of the 5th Congressional District election, The Herald is asking the candidates for their positions on key issues. The election is Nov. 2.
Q: School districts are struggling. What, if anything, can you do in Congress to prevent teacher layoffs? Should we expect more cuts?
A. John Spratt, Democratic incumbent: An analysis by the Council of Economic Advisors projected state budget shortfalls for Fiscal Year 2011 would put 100,000 to 300,000 education jobs at risk across the country this school year.
In August, I voted for H.R. 1586, the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act, which will save or create 319,000 American jobs in local communities, including 161,000 teacher jobs, and also discourages American corporations from shipping jobs overseas.
According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Education, the $10 billion in education funding will save 2,600 teacher jobs in South Carolina. And the Economic Policy Institute estimates the Medicaid funds will save and create 158,000 jobs, including preventing the layoff of police officers and firefighters. More than half of these jobs will be in the private sector.
Because of offsets, the bill actually reduces the deficit by $1.4 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The bill includes costs of $26.1 billion and offsets of $27.5 billion - including $17.7 billion in spending cuts and $9.8 billion by closing tax loopholes that encourage corporations to ship American jobs overseas. This bill is good for South Carolina, and I proudly supported it.
A. Mick Mulvaney, Republican challenger: The best thing that Congress can do is to allow local school boards - not the U.S. Department of Education - to decide how our children are educated. The federal government should then focus on increasing the number of teachers, reducing the number of unfunded mandates and keeping the teachers we have in the profession.
Too many of our young teachers are leaving for different careers.
The federal government should set national standards for things such as civics and American history, set national teacher certification standards (so that teachers can move from state to state), and possibly help provide local schools with cheaper, more effective standardized tests.
(The current tests are extremely expensive.)
We spend far too little on teachers, and far too much on administration. In the S.C. Senate, I sponsored a bill that would require 65 percent of education funding to be spent in the classroom and on teachers. We should continue to pursue this. Additionally, federal education funding should have fewer strings attached, and should more resemble block grants with very basic requirements to prevent waste and fraud.