By Paul Gable
The S.C. Supreme Court denied a request by Gov. Nikki Haley and the S.C. General Assembly to rehear a school funding lawsuit it ruled on two months ago.
In its denial, the Court said it was unable to discover any material fact or principal of law that had been overlooked or disregarded when it first ruled on the case.
In November 2014, the Court ruled the state failed to provide to children in poor, rural school districts with a minimally adequate education as required by state law.
However, while the Court ordered the state to come up with a plan to fix the problem within a reasonable amount of time, it gave neither guidelines nor timetable for the plan.
The S.C. House has established a 17-member ad hoc committee to study solutions but does not expect recommendations from it until January 2016.
While the Court said funding alone won’t fix the problem, inadequate funding of education has long been a problem in South Carolina.
The laws governing basic education funding formulas are 31 and 38 years old, respectively. In addition, the 2006 passage of Act 388 by the General Assembly put the final nail in the coffin of potential local government agency revenue streams.
On the education side, Act 388 forbids property taxes on owner-occupied homes to be used for school district operational funds. It replaced this funding with a one-cent increase in the state sales tax, which has resulted in even more serious underfunding ever since.
In asking for the rehearing, the governor and legislature said the Court had overstepped its authority in ordering those two branches of government to do anything.
I would submit the General Assembly consistently oversteps its authority by attempting to control everything from Columbia rather than fully implementing home rule for local government agencies.
Attempting to be fiscally conservative is fine. However, being stingy with basic infrastructure needs, while never missing the chance to fund special interest initiatives, is the legacy of the S.C. General Assembly.
Don’t expect the S.C. Supreme Court ruling to change that mentality any time soon.