Treasurer giving away iPads bought by firm
COLUMBIA — State Treasurer Curtis Loftis is distributing iPads to South Carolina schools under a contract with the investment firm that runs his office’s college savings program.
A listing of schools receiving iPads from Loftis
COLUMBIA Treasurer Curtis Loftis has distributed iPads at the following schools over the last two months. The devices were bought by an investment firm contracted to run the state’s college savings program.
Home School Resource Center, Lexington
Upstate Home School Co-Op, Taylors
Bob Jones Academy Elementary School, Greenville
Florence Montessori School, Florence
Mason Preparatory School, Charleston
St. Martin De Porres, Columbia
St. Paul the Apostle School, Spartanburg
Bridgewater Academy, Myrtle Beach
Daniel Island School, Daniel Island
Dorman High School, Spartanburg
JD Lever Elementary School, Aiken
Fort Mill High School, Fort Mill
Foster Park Elementary School, Union
Palmetto School at the Children’s Attention Home, Rock Hill
Schofield Middle School, Aiken
Source: South Carolina treasurer’s office
The Republican treasurer handed out 115 iPads at 15 schools between Oct. 3 and Nov. 19 as part of his financial literacy education efforts, Loftis spokesman Alex Stroman said Thursday. Schools can use the iPads, which come with $30 iTunes gift cards and finance education games, however they wish, he said.
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“It’s something the treasurer believes is super important — financial literacy,” Stroman said. “Part of becoming a productive citizen is learning how to save money and spend money wisely.”
State Ethics Commission director Herb Hayden said the arrangement doesn’t appear to conflict with state ethics law.
Stroman gave the explanation after questions were raised during a Retirement System Investment Commission meeting Thursday. Loftis declined to answer Chairman Reynolds Williams’ questions about a news report in which Loftis said the 15 iPads he distributed at Dorman High on Oct. 28 were donated by an investment firm, not bought with state money.
“I’m not going to talk about it now. I don’t have the files in front of me,” said Loftis, a member of the commission that invests retirees’ pension money.
After the meeting, Stroman said Columbia Management administers the iPad giveaway program.
“They do zero business before the state retirement investment commission,” he said. “It’s a completely transparent, above-the-board program. This is something the treasurer’s completely proud of.”
He later confirmed that the Minnesota-based firm manages Future Scholar, the state’s 529 college savings plan, which the treasurer’s office is solely responsible for under state law. The iPads are funded through a pool of money the firm sets aside yearly to market the savings plan, Stroman said.
Loftis, who’s running for re-election, distributes the iPads bought by the firm. It’s part of a contract the treasurer’s office recently renewed with Columbia Management, he said.
He could not immediately provide the contract or give details about the marketing budget.
The 15 schools that Loftis visited during the past two months include public, private and home schools. Stroman said he picked schools that represented a cross-section of the state’s students.
Loftis started the financial literacy program after taking office in 2011. He will renew his statewide tour and iPad distributions after the holidays, Stroman said.
Columbia Management spokesman Ryan Lund said the financial literacy program is an important part of its deal with the state.
“One of the key components of the partnership between the state treasurer’s office and Columbia Management is an annual commitment from Columbia Management to fund an in-state scholarship fund and financial literacy program,” he said in a written statement.