Alan Wilson must be really confused right about now.
He thought he was being elected state attorney general, but lately everyone wants him to play traffic cop for squabbling state agencies.
They are dragging him into the ports mess, The Citadel mess, the governor's mess(es).
And now he might get pulled into the school mess.
The State Board of Education may ask Wilson to determine whether the state education superintendent has to provide it with a regular list of all the federal money he's turning down for our schools. Which is certainly a good question.
As Diette Courrégé reports, South Carolina won't participate in the Green Ribbon Schools program, an insidious plot to recognize schools that improve energy efficiency and provide a healthier environment for kids. Superintendent of Education Mick Zais says the program is too burdensome.
If the idea of making schools better is so burdensome, perhaps he shouldn't have campaigned for a government job to run them.
Cutting off your nose
This is getting ridiculous.
First, Zais wouldn't apply for Race to the Top money, a federal grant program our schools had a good shot of winning, seeing as how the state was on the short list last time.
Then he refused $144 million in federal money to help strapped school systems avoid layoffs in the midst of a recession. Now this.
Most lawmakers take a more practical approach. State Rep. Chip Limehouse, an education kind of guy, says he agrees with the statement Zais is making about Washington being out of control. But, 'If that money is just going to be wasted in California or somewhere else, we should get back the money we paid in and put it toward the schools.'
Not everyone is so reasonable. As state board member and Zais backer -- to the tune of a $1,000 campaign contribution -- Michael Brenan told The State newspaper, "Every time we abdicate anything to the federal government, we lose some of our sovereignty as a state."
You know, the last time South Carolina started talking like that, we got our tails kicked.
And if you look at our education rankings under this crew, we still are.
Learn the law
Luckily, other members of the State Board of Education are not so politically motivated.
They say this is about transparency and about the board -- which sets state education policy -- having a say in whether we turn down our own tax money, which diverts it to other states. Our $144 million in Education Jobs Fund money got divvied up amongst the other 49 states.
Now, money isn't everything in education, but school districts are laying off teachers left and right. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize we need help.
Zais won't ask for this cash; claims there are too many strings attached; and says the board lacks the power to make him rat himself out for turning down federal money. But, as usual, he's wrong.
Section 59-3-30 of the state code calls the superintendent a secretary and administrative officer for the board, and says he has responsibility over the schools or duties assigned to him by the Board of Education.
So Alan Wilson probably isn't going to have to expend much energy on this one. It's pretty clear that the superintendent knows more about politics than governing.
But then, that's been clear for nearly a year now.