To the Contrary

Paying for schools

A Circuit Court judge has refused to modify his ruling in the long-running litigation by poor, rural school districts suing to get more money from the state. He essentially ruled that the legislature has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility but could spend more on early childhood education. ...

The plight of poor school districts used to be a matter of their tax base. They got about as much as other school districts from the state but were unable to raise more through property taxes.

That changed when the General Assembly substituted state sales tax revenue for homeowners' property taxes to support schools, making each district's tax base less of a factor. ...

The General Assembly took on a heavy burden when it substituted state funds for local funds in its eagerness to address property tax relief. In the process, it took greater control of school budgets and greater accountability for educational success.

Lawmakers have grabbed more control, and the courts have reaffirmed legislative jurisdiction over school funding. Lawmakers now have to live up to that responsibility by creating a stable and equitable funding system.

Corrections probe

It's perfectly fine for the Senate to investigate problems at the Department of Corrections, but members of that body must be prepared to deal with all the findings, not just those hand-picked by lawmakers. ...

Some people continue to point the finger at prisons chief Jon Ozmint when there are problems, claiming his lack of experience as a professional director is a drawback. Certainly, Mr. Ozmint, a lawyer and former prosecutor in the state attorney general's office, isn't a corrections professional. He's had to learn on the job. And we haven't always agreed with him. But he's proven to be a smart, sound, refreshing, director. He's worked admirably to keep this state's penal system afloat despite limited help, and even hindrance, from the Legislature. ...

Lawmakers' lust to lock people up overcrowds prisons, making Mr. Ozmint's job harder. They do nothing to alleviate the problem, such as providing adequate funding or adopting alternatives to incarceration. ...

While lawmakers should indeed demand needed changes and appropriate corrective action, they're not without blame. They should own up to their responsibility to ensure that Corrections has the means and support to effectively secure inmates and protect the public.

College tuitions

The College Board's announcement last fall that average tuition increases at four-year public institutions slowed for a third consecutive year was welcome news, but here in South Carolina, the tuition news is mixed at best.

Tuition increases this year range from zero at South Carolina State University to 9.2 percent at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, which is in its third year as a four-year school. ...

Some South Carolina students will get more aid this year. The Palmetto Fellowship will increase from $6,700 to $7,500, and upperclassmen majoring in science, math and engineering can receive $10,000 a year. And the $5,000 LIFE Scholarships awards will increase by 50 percent to $7,500 for engineering, math and science majors. ...

But in addition to legislators' increasing spending for higher education, members of the boards of institutions also must ... ensure that colleges operate efficiently.

State funding is key to affordable higher education, and that is key to South Carolina's future.

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