For once, the odds were in South Carolina's favor.

The state had a one-in-nine chance to win between $10 million and $50 million in the Race to the Top federal grant competition, which funds innovative plans to improve academics.

But Mick Zais, the state superintendent of education, essentially said "No thanks."

"Schools need less, not more, federal intrusion to increase student achievement," Zais said last week.

Right, because South Carolina schools are doing so well on their own. (We're No. 47!)

A few days ago, the state School Boards Association and the Association of School Administrators said they would look into doing the superintendent's job for him and find a way to apply for the money themselves. It's a valiant effort doomed to fail. The feds will take one look at the soap opera that is South Carolina politics and avoid it like the plague.

And while the adults act like brats, the state's children continue to suffer through an education system that is being abandoned.

Money solves nothing?

During last year's election, Zais made points with those tea party types by blasting then-Superintendent Jim Rex's decision to compete for the funds.

"Race to the Top does not fund one teacher or one brick," Zais said. "Lack of programs and administrators is not a problem in South Carolina."

He's got a point there. Gov. Nikki Haley herself said the state Department of Education had a thousand bureaucrats doing nothing. Good thing the Republicans got rid of all those folks when they took over.

Zais may be right that Race to the Top funds don't build new schools or hire new teachers. But that money might improve schools a bit -- or make up for the $110 million cut from education in the past three years.

But that doesn't matter. These people say throwing money at the problem does nothing.

Which is a good argument, if your goal is to completely wipe out state school funding.

Wrong race

Zais' pronouncement is sort of like Jim DeMint's attempt to kill the Charleston port -- a federal disaster. Except FEMA doesn't pay for stupidity.

Refusing this money doesn't prevent it from being spent, it just routes our tax money to other states.

Maybe Zais is just saving himself some trouble. Extra money would only mean more work when it came time to find more cuts to pander to the base. Already this year, Zais proposed whacking $34 million in new textbooks.

That was smart. You know, the reason so many people here think President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States may be because some South Carolina textbooks pre-date Hawaii's statehood.

This all boils down to some ideological mumbo jumbo, which is the only thing worse than government bureaucratic mumbo jumbo.

Zais says we don't need to listen to the federal government. At least, that's what the people standing on the Statehouse grounds in the middle of the day wearing their Trump for President T-shirts told him.

South Carolina may not get any Race to the Top money, but we are the odds-on favorite in the Race to the Bottom competition.