Last week, ThinkProgress reported that Gov. Mark Sanford’s (R-SC) proposal to reject $700 million in stimulus funds could imperil the jobs of up to 7,500 South Carolina teachers, because most of the money was meant to fill the education budget gap and keep schools operating. Today, State Rep. Dan Cooper (R) said Sanford’s proposal would result in 4,000 teachers losing their jobs, along with 700 prison guards:
He said the state budget — already cut from $7.1 billion to $5.6 billion in less than a year — would have to be slashed another 8 percent to 9 percent if the stimulus money is used as Sanford proposes.
He said that would trigger the layoffs of 4,000 teachers and the emergency closures of three to five prisons, with 3,400 inmates freed early and 700 guards losing their jobs.
Yesterday, the White House rejected Sanford’s waiver application to use the funds to pay down the state debt rather than fill in educational and public safety budget gaps. In response, Sanford submitted a new request asking to use the funds to to repay $577 million in school bonds. Pete Pillow, a spokesman for the state Education Department, said that Sanford’s new proposal would do nothing to save teachers’ jobs, and repeated the assertion that 4,000 teachers stood to lose their jobs.
This is still an attempt to pay down debt. It doesn’t to anything to help conditions [in schools] now. … All the districts now who are planning to lay off people and are saying we’re going to be short next year in terms of operational expenses, that wouldn’t be helped by any paying down of bonds. … So it’s the same song, different tune.
Rather than addressing the real educational crisis in his state, Sanford is instead complaining about an ad put out by the Democratic National Committee accusing him of “playing politics” with the stimulus. “I don’t think this approach of targeting ads against anyone who sees an issue a little differently represents the kind of so-called ‘change’ many people were voting for in November,” Sanford said in a statement.
This morning, Ronnie Jackson, the mayor of Allendale, SC — a town with a more than 24 percent unemployment rate — went on MSNBC to plead with Sanford to accept the stimulus funds. “We need it. We need it bad,” he said.