South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) waged a high-profile war against the economic stimulus package last spring, claiming that accepting the $700 million for which his state was eligible would lead to “a thing called slavery.” Even as his state’s unemployment rate climbed above the national average, Sanford maintained his partisan and politically motivated refusal to take the funds.
But yesterday, Sanford flew to Washington to demand $300 million in stimulus money for education, the State newspaper reports:
Sanford, who spent much of last year fighting parts of the Obama administration’s stimulus plan, now wants S.C. to have a piece of $4 billion in “Race to the Top” education money. […]
Sanford met with [Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan to learn more about a charter school program Duncan started in Chicago, said Ben Fox, the governor’s spokesman. Sanford also took the trip to urge Duncan to support more charter school grants, Fox said. […]
Sanford’s trip — which did not appear on his official calendar — is especially hypocritical because the majority of stimulus money destined for South Carolina was to fund education and save thousands of teachers’ jobs. Yet, in March, Sanford told Fox News host Glenn Beck that taking the money would be akin to “fiscal child abuse.”
Indeed, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) said of Sanford’s trip: “I am pleased to see that the governor is finally taking an interest in South Carolina’s public schools.” “After going to court last year to prevent stimulus funds,” Clyburn added, “his meeting with Secretary Duncan appears to be the governor’s admission that the stimulus was not only necessary but effective.”
Sanford’s objection to taking stimulus education funding became especially poignant after eight-year-old South Carolinian Ty’Sheoma Bethea famously asked President Obama to fix her crumbling school. In June, the state Supreme Court finally ordered Sanford to take the $700 million and now, Bethea’s school is being rebuilt with $23.5 million of stimulus money.
Sanford’s opposition to taking the federal aid — which mirrored that of other high-profile GOP governors, like Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Rick Perry (R-TX) — was viewed by many as an effort to lay the groundwork for a run for higher office. But after his affair dashed these hopes, Sanford seems to have gained a new interest doing what is right for his state’s students.