May 22, 2018
Governor Henry McMaster
1100 Gervais Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Strengthening public commitment to public services at this moment will spur a historic campaign to ensure equitable funding of education and state services in South Carolina. The South Carolina Education Association (The SCEA), The South Carolina State Employees Association (SCSEA) and the Palmetto State Teachers Association (PSTA), along with a coalition of other education and social progress organization partners, are today messaging you and South Carolina’s citizens that services are failing South Carolina’s state agencies and education system.
Employee morale has never been lower. The education community and state agencies scramble every day to combat rapid turnover, reduce costs and retain experienced employees. This kind of atmosphere, unfortunately, means that South Carolina is not getting the best from employees that are committed to providing the best services. A lack of school funding, dismal test scores, management problems, long response times, and understaffing present additional stressors to a system that is already more than challenged.
In today’s economy, public school teachers, education support professionals, and state employees must be competitively compensated, at the very least, at the national average. The good news is that South Carolina is not broke, and priority funding and strategic policy development can address poor state services and schools that have not been provided the tools they need to serve our students and citizens.
There are no bright spots in South Carolina’s latest scores on the test known as the ‘National Report Card’. Fourth-grade math and reading scores are down. Further, last year South Carolina ranked the worst in providing a quality public education.
Eighth grade achievement in both subjects has flat-lined and the state’s national rankings, which were low to begin with, have gotten worse. South Carolina fourth-graders placed 47th in the nation on the reading section of the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, down from 39th in 2015 when the test was last given.
One of state government’s core functions is to provide for the safety and education of citizens. South Carolina is cutting too many corners on state services and education to ensure these core services to the citizens of South Carolina are met.
Worse, our legislators have turned their back on the Abbeville court decision, which found that our funding for quality education is unconstitutional. Yet legislators have ignored this injunction and refused to address the funding our children deserve.
The alarm has already been sounded by experts, state agency directors and education professionals who have testified before the South Carolina Senate and House committees about the turnover and recruitment crisis caused by the antiquated pay and benefit structure in place for state employees and teachers in South Carolina.
South Carolina is not broke. Priority funding would immediately address prominent visible short-comings including employee recruitment, retention, workforce quality, morale and service delivery. We can bring in new tax revenue and we can do it without raising taxes on a single working family. Focusing on already available revenue streams to shore up deficiencies in education and state services protects South Carolina’s citizens.
One prime revenue source could be the $3 billion dollars in sales tax exemptions given to 96 businesses in South Carolina. Businesses receiving these exemptions are benefiting from the services of state government. They are getting state services for free, while others are paying for them. Making a proactive change in this area alone could immediately address deficiencies in state services and education.
We are asking you to take a stand and truly represent the people who serve South Carolinians every day, in classrooms and state agencies, as well as the 5 million South Carolinians who depend on capable and competent state employees and teachers for their services.
We look forward to working together to provide solutions to fixing an ailing system so we can promise and deliver all South Carolinians our best. As a start, Governor McMaster we are calling on you to meet with us for a summit this summer with the leaders of The South Carolina State Employees Association, The South Carolina Education and the Palmetto State Teachers Association, as well as the Chairs of both budget committees, Senator Hugh Leatherman and Representative Brian White.
With our thanks,
Bernadette R. Hampton, The SCEA Carlton R. Washington, SC SEA Kathy Maness, PSTA