Here's a look at some of what contributes to South Carolina's failure to eliminate disparities in education, health care and economic opportunity, according to many of those interviewed by The Post and Courier over the last seven months:
The state's form of government:
South Carolina's system of government is based on the constitution of 1895 pushed into adoption by Gov. “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, a virulent racist who wanted to disenfranchise black people and limit the traditional political power of the Lowcountry. That constitution has been amended numerous times, but some of its core principles remain and have an impact on perpetuating disparities.
It created a state government controlled by legislators who tend to be focused on local issues, needs and politics.
The governor was given little real power. This has begun to change as more control of state agencies has been shifted in recent decades to the governor's Cabinet, but the office still lacks power to push a statewide vision, because much executive authority remains in the Legislature.
A small group of legislators controls key spending and governmental decision-making. This can be seen today in legislative committees and General-Assembly-dominated commissions and boards that control how money is spent, such as for highway construction.
Judges are elected by and dependent on the Legislature.
That legislative power may be diminished substantially this year if both the House and Senate can agree on terms in measures designed to disband the legislatively dominated Budget and Control Board and place most of those monetary powers in a Department of Administration under the governor.
Until the 1970s, when Home Rule placed more power in local governments, each area's legislative delegation controlled county and city government. Legislators continue to exercise significant control over local affairs.
Lack of state commitment and money to tackle key underlying problems
South Carolina's state government consistently fails to adequately invest in its citizens' futures in the areas of education and health care, which many experts see as the key to economic development.
Providing a free and open public education system is one of the few requirements the state's constitution places on state government. But the constitution, as interpreted by the state Supreme Court, requires that the state provide only a “minimally adequate education.”
Documents filed in the school equity lawsuit currently before the state Supreme Court contend that the Legislature has underfunded school districts by more than $1 billion since a school-funding formula became law in the 1970s.
The school equity lawsuit was originally filed almost 20 years ago in an effort to force the state to provide more money to poor school districts.
The state contends that the law places no requirement on the Legislature for any specific level of education funding. However, the state concedes that the Legislature “has not always appropriated sufficient funds” to the schools to meet the Budget and Control Board's annual estimate of the Basic Student Cost.
Documents in the school equity lawsuit also contend that annual funding to K-12 public schools from the state Education Lottery has fallen from a high of $102.8 million in 2004-05 to $28.3 million in 2012-13.
In December 2005 the state was ordered by the trial judge in the school equity lawsuit to provide for a better preschool education. The judge did not specify what the state should do or how much the state should spend.
As a result, all the state did was create a pilot pre-school program in certain districts.
Today, seven years after the judge's ruling, 35 districts participate in the pilot program. That's less than half of the state's 83 school districts.
Last month, in her State of the State address, Gov. Nikki Haley called on legislators to join her in an effort to find a way to help poorer school districts. But she offered no plan or suggestions.
A November study released by Clemson University's Jim Self Center on the Future found that the state's funding formula for schools has been further eroded by the state property tax relief law of 2006, Act 388. It exempted owned-occupied residential property from school operating taxes effective in 2007.
The report found that as a result, “Forty districts had fewer dollars per pupil, including 16 of the 26 poor districts ...”
The report's authors also said that “The consequences of Act 388 of 2006 suggest that it is perhaps time to take a comprehensive look at the state's role in funding public education and in promoting equity in funding across districts with unequal needs and unequal resources.”
In 2011, Haley and Education Superintendent Mick Zais refused to accept $144 million in federal bailout money for public schools to help prevent teacher layoffs. South Carolina was the only state to refuse the money. The state's share was later divided among other states.
State cuts to higher education have left South Carolina's public colleges and universities with the highest in-state tuition in the South and the least state investment.
As a result:
State Education Lottery scholarships for students no longer cover the cost of tuition, as they did when the lottery began. They now account for less than half of a student's tuition.
Lacking health care
The state's Health Department gets just 16 percent of its money from the state. The rest comes mainly from the federal government.
The department basically acts as a funding administration and distribution arm for the federal government.
The director of the state's health department considers obesity the state's No. 1 health issue, but a department spokesman told The Post and Courier that the department has allocated no state dollars for its anti-obesity effort. The money comes from the federal government and grants from businesses and foundations.
Catherine Templeton, director of the Department of Health and Environmental Control, made fighting obesity the department's main health goal in July. However, last month she told The Post and Courier she didn't see a need to spend new state money toward that effort. Instead she plans to work with existing anti-obesity efforts around the state and try to redirect some of the department's millions of dollars in annual federal grants on anti-obesity efforts.
Last year, Haley and Health and Human Services Director Tony Keck refused to accept the federal government's offer to extend Medicaid to uninsured South Carolinians.Haley and Keck said they don't want to get further involved in a wasteful, inefficient government program that would require South Carolina to spend anywhere from $1.1 billion to $2.3 billion over the next six years.
That decision denied easier and far less expensive health-care access to about 500,000 mostly working poor South Carolinians.
The federal government would have paid the full cost for the first three years of the extension. Then the federal support would phase down slightly each year until 2020. After that states would have to put up $1 for every $9 by the federal government.
Some policy organizations, such as the liberal-leaning Urban Institute, estimate that an extension of Medicaid to the uninsured could save the states billions of dollars in uninsured medical costs and other expenses. The institute estimates that South Carolina would save between $59 million and $678 million. The institute says that would come in reduced costs for expenses such as reimbursing hospitals for medical care provided to the uninsured and in reduced state costs for care to mental patients who would become eligible for Medicaid.
Keck scoffs at those savings estimates. “Our studies are solid,” he said recently.
The state aggressively recruits new industries and business with numerous forms of tax credits, yet it does not track companies that leave, downsize or go out of business. It also provides no public record of what, if any, penalties it has imposed on companies that do not meet requirements for having received certain tax credits and other incentives.
The state supports job training and remedial education efforts through its technical college system. The tech colleges will tailor classes to teach workers the specific skills industries want. It also provides adult-education classes for those who lack reading, writing and math skills.
However, the state provides little additional money or resources to poor rural and inner-city schools to prevent such educational failings in the first place.
Benjamin Ryan Tillman (1847-1918)×
Annual funding from the state’s Education Lottery has fallen from more than $100 million to less than $30 million.×
Gov.-elect Nikki Haley selected Anthony ""Tony"" Keck to serve as the new director of the state Department of Health and Human Services. His appointment is pending state Senate confirmation. ¬ ¬ Published Caption 9/2/11: Gov. Nikki Haley and Tony Keck, head of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said insurance exchanges are a bad fit for the state.×
Metro -- Li'l Cricket on Folly Road had signs up announcing it as a location for playing the state's lottery, which begins Monday. photo/wade spees. 1/4/2002×
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.