District superintendents express support for “Begin in ‘10” funding proposals

February 7, 2009

COLUMBIA, SC – February 6.2009 – South Carolina school district superintendents have voted overwhelmingly to support Begin in ’10, the package of reforms proposed by State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex to change the way South Carolina funds its public schools and make comprehensive changes to the state’s tax structure.

“As superintendents, we have the responsibility of making sure that more than 700,000 students across the state receive the best education possible.  In fact, their very futures depend on it,” said Lexington District One Superintendent Karen Woodward, who chaired one of the two statewide task forces that made recommendations. 

“By supporting a new funding model,” Woodward said, “we’re taking a significant step toward making sure that each and every child in our state receives an education that prepares them for the 21st century – no matter where they live.  Our state and our students cannot wait any longer. We have the opportunity to be bold, to step out and to do what is right for students across our state.”

Rex, who announced Begin in ’10 last week, said that legislation based on the task force recommendations is likely to be introduced soon.  Among other things, that legislation would: 
• Create a new system of flexible, student-centered funding, rolling up dozens of budget line items currently tied to specific programs and distributing the money instead on a per-pupil basis, so districts can use it in ways that best meet their students’ needs.
• Pave the way for a modernized foundation program. Instead of aiming for a minimally adequate education, South Carolina would commit itself to providing the resources needed for students to meet state academic standards rated as among the nation’s most rigorous.
• Address the fact that students with special needs – students from poverty, students with limited English proficiency, students with disabilities and students who are academically or artistically advanced – require more resources to educate.
• Codify kindergarten for all at-risk four-year-olds, as ordered in a 2005 court ruling.
• Create an 11-member commission to conduct a detailed, comprehensive study of the state’s overall tax structure and make recommendations on an adequate, equitable and efficient state revenue system designed to enhance South Carolina’s quality of life and make the state a stronger competitor in attracting businesses and individuals.

David Longshore, Superintendent of Orangeburg District 3, called the package of recommendations “the most comprehensive plan I’ve seen in my lifetime for making our system fairer.”

“I could live with this plan as the superintendent of any district in South Carolina,” Longshore said.  “The time has come for us to support reform, and I’m pleased that we’re supporting the work of Dr. Rex and the task forces he convened to address this difficult issue.

Spartanburg District 7 Superintendent Thomas White, who serves as president of the Superintendents’ Division of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators, noted that “an enormous amount of time, energy, research, and input” had gone into crafting this plan.

“In these difficult economic times, it’s important to put a new framework in place so that when the economy recovers, we are not putting our resources into an outdated and unworkable revenue and funding structure, White said.

Rex thanked the district superintendents for coming together to support reform.

We’re at a crossroads,” Rex said.  “If we choose not to act proactively and for the long term, this economic crisis could cripple our state for a generation.  I appreciate the work that has gone into creating this plan, and I am extremely thankful to South Carolina’s public education community for rallying around reform.