Fort Mill educators and local school supporters were part of a crowd of more than 200 gathered Monday in Rock Hill to voice support for public education funding.
Educators from across York County told the crowd to call Gov. Mark Sanford and urge him to accept federal stimulus money. During the rally, officials from all four of the county's school districts said they need the money to keep educational programs going.
Sanford has repeatedly said he plans refuse the money.
Officials from the county's four school districts warned that educational progress in South Carolina would halt if Sanford refuses the $700 million as he has vowed to do. They didn't specify what programs would be cut without the money or whether to expect layoffs.
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Sanford is the nation's first governor to refuse stimulus money, declaring that the millions to be paid over two years to balance the state's budget should be spent on debt. Two Sanford requests to spend the money on state debt were rejected by the White House, which maintains that it should be spent on immediate needs.
Fort Mill School District Superintendent Dr. Keith Callicutt has argued that because local taxpayers are ultimately funding the federal stimulus plan, some of the money should be used here, as opposed to subsidizing spending elsewhere in the U.S.
Other educators agree.
"These millions of dollars intended to help our schools will be sent to other states, yet the citizens of South Carolina will still have to pay the price but not receive the benefits," Bryan Coburn, a teacher at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, told the crowd.
Sanford's office could not be reached late Monday.
Billed as a press conference, the afternoon gathering on Rock Hill's City Hall steps came off more like a rally. The crowd, filled with educators waving signs that said "$ave our $chools" and "$timulus for Students," stood cheering when one audience member suggested Sanford be impeached.
York schools Superintendent Russell Booker calmed them down.
"The best thing we can do at this point, guys, is make our voices heard," Booker said.
Sanford "has made his point. We understand his philosophical standing," he said, "but we need this money."