ThinkProgress has been tracking Gov. Mark Sanford’s (R-SC) partisan, politically-motivated war against President Obama’s recovery plan, refusing to spend $700 million of stimulus money on education and public safety, as required by law. Instead, he is insisting that the state legislature direct the funds toward paying off the state debt — largely created by the disastrous tax cuts Sanford championed.
On Morning Joe today, CNBC’s Donny Deutsch pointedly questioned Sanford, arguing that his ideological decision could increase class sizes because teachers will be fired. Sanford admitted that education was important but in effect said he wasn’t willing to allocate new funds for it. He said the legislature should find school funding elsewhere in the budget:
DEUTSCH: Ideology is all great, but let’s pretend I’m a dad and I’m living in South Carolina. A lot of that money is earmarked for education. If you don’t take that money because of your point of view and my kid — there are less teachers, the tuition for the state schools go up, and education is really affected — this is not just in theory, this is reality. What do you say to me as a dad that I’m worried about my kid in a state that has very poor education records?
SANFORD: Yeah, but here’s the bottom line. What this tug of war is really about is reform within South Carolina. … It’s only in these kind of economic times that you can make the changes that are essential, frankly, to South Carolina being more competitive. So our view is, no, we could make some changes that created the dollars that could then be allocated to education and other things.
Host Joe Scarborough cheered Sanford throughout the interview, cutting off Deutsch’s tough questionning and ending the segment by declaring that he wanted Sanford to run for president. Watch it:
Sanford claims he’s simply putting “some pressure within the boiling pot” to force “reforms” to the budget to pay for schools. However, the “Major Expenditure Categories” in South Carolina’s budget are K-12 education, Medicaid, social services and corrections, higher education scholarships, and state employee health plans. It’s fair to assume, therefore, that Sanford’s ideological battle will force the legislature to choose between cutting social services and health care, or funding the state’s schools.
After the interview, Scarborough went further in his defense of Sanford, saying it doesn’t matter if Sanford denies needed funding for schools because a student in South Carolina “gets more money than students across the planet, because [he] lives in America.” The more relevant fact, however, is that a student in South Carolina is at a serious disadvantage compared to other American children. According to census data from 2006, South Carolina ranks 34th in state spending per pupil, and 32nd in spending overall (including federal funds).