Shanda Allen Files for Reelection to Horry County School Board

By Paul Gable

Shanda Allen, Horry County School Board member for District 11, filed for reelection Saturday on the first day of filing for the upcoming June 11, 2024, Republican Primary voting.

Often school board members and their deliberations fall outside the voters’ immediate awareness of local political issues. However, those same issues may impact local residents and families more directly on a day-to-day basis than any other political discussions in the county.

The School Board oversees the largest budget of any public agency in Horry County. It oversees the safety of the county’s students while they are in school 180 days oer year and the learning environment for those students as they prepare to enter the adult world.

Allen has served two terms on the school board. She currently serves on the Human Relations Committee, which sets the overall policy for staffing school district employees and is Chairman of the Technical Committee, which sets policy for the learning devices provided to each student as education continually shifts from book to digital learning. She was previously a member of the Finance Committee, which sets the general outline of yearly spending before the entire board considers and debates the final budget. Allen’s nearly eight years of experience in dealing with these issues are a plus in her candidacy.

The Horry County School Board faces two unique challenges every year. Horry County is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. The school district, which currently serves approximately 45,000 students, experiences growth in student population at a current rate of approximately 1,600 new students each year. That number is expected to rise to an annual increase of 2,000 new students per year in the near future. A general rule is that every increase of 1,000 students requires a new school facility to house those new students. Planning for the new facilities and the staff to populate them is an ever-increasing challenge for board members.

The annual school budget combines local taxes with state and federal government grants to provide the annual revenue pool. Horry County has consistently been short-changed from the state of South Carolina budget in per pupil revenue. Currently, out of the 103 school districts funded on a per pupil basis from the state budget, Horry County ranks number 102 in per pupil funding from the state. Only Charleston County receives less per pupil from the state budget than Horry County.

Allen is a conservative who believes in low taxes and fiscal responsibility when spending the public’s money.

“I am proud that during my eight years on the school board we have not raised property taxes,” Allen said. “We told staff to sharpen their pencils again this year because we don’t want to raise taxes.”

One of the initiatives which Allen and the other board members successfully supported was the continuation of the Capital Projects Sales Tax, which funds construction maintenance and upgrades as well as new construction of school facilities in Horry County. This one-cent local option sales tax transfers funding for school construction to the millions of visitors each year to Horry County on approximately a 2 to 1 basis. In other words, locals pay approximately 35% of those taxes while visitors pay approximately 65% helping to keep local property taxes down.

While holding the line on property taxes, the school board has been able to generate “step raises” for employees of the school district each year and to provide for the increase in new teacher pay required by the General Assembly across the state.

“The General Assembly passed a law that raises pay for new teachers by approximately $5,000 per year but provided no money to local school boards to fund these increases,” said Allen. “Finding the money to pay for these unfunded state requirements is one of the challenges we face every year.”

There are approximately 15 different native foreign languages spoken as a first language by Horry County students. This means, in addition to the other challenges the board faces, finding new English as a Second Language teachers is an annual challenge. Allen said the school district hired 27 new learning interventionists to help close the learning gap which some students experienced due to the Covid pandemic.

Maintaining learning standards with an ever increasing student population and unexpected events such as the Covid pandemic, while holding the line on taxes even with new facilities construction every year is the experience  Allen’s two terms on the school board offers to voters in her reelection campaign.

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