S.C. budget to benefit students

First Byline: 
Jonathan Vickery - Staff Writer

The current budget making its way through the statehouse includes increased funding for public school students.
The S.C. House of Representatives passed the budget March 11. It includes every major component of Gov. Nikki Haley's K-12 Education Reform Initiative announced earlier this year, adding $180 million in new funds for public education.
A major component is a simpler, more equitable funding formula for how schools receive funds that "places greater emphasis on poverty, gifted students, and students requiring specialized instruction," according to a budget summary document.
The budget also provides $30 million to hire reading coaches in every elementary school across the state, $4.5 million to expand summer reading programs, and $29 million to improve technology and internet capabilities in schools.
Rep. Lonnie Hosey, who represents District 91, including most of Barnwell County, said he is "pleased we were able to come together with a meaningful budget" that helps students.
Other education items included in the budget are: $17.7 million more for charter schools, $20.6 million to purchase school buses, $28 million in new money for scholarships, and $4 million to hire a national higher education consultant to conduct a complete review of the state's higher education system focused on improving efficiency and effectiveness.
"We are now going to start educating children based on the fact that they all deserve to know what the American Dream feels like, they deserve to know what success feels like. The House has done its part to pass this historic reform, it's now time for the Senate to do the same," said Haley in a press release.
The budget is now in the hands of the Senate. If they make changes, which Hosey said they likely will, then it would come back to the House for another vote.
Besides education, the budget includes $23 million to issue a 1.5 percent pay raise to all state workers, $6.5 million for another year of consumer identity theft protection services for millions of residents affected by 2012 data breach at the Department of Revenue, $14.8 million to continue funding cyber security upgrades, $1.6 million to increase monthly payments to foster care families, $3.9 million for capital projects at state parks, and an additional $500,000 for local airport grants. Also included is $447,000 for 10 new state troopers, $471,000 for eight new wildlife officers, $2.7 million to increase funding for State Law Enforcement Division programs, and $1.2 million for violent prosecution funding at the 16 circuits.
One thing the current budget doesn't include is funds for Medicaid expansion, though Hosey said he is hoping that's something they can work on.