One of Charleston County School District Board of Trustees newest members Priscilla Jeffrey on voting for the school district’s 2018 budget remarked she doesn’t like to spend money “all willy-nilly”, but she’s okay with the $473 million operating budget the board has approved to spend next year because it includes money that will put more teachers in classrooms.
District officials project spending over $162 million for teachers and professional education salaries. That’s $10 million more than was budgeted last year and will put two teachers in some Charleston County schools classrooms. Still, despite being among the state’s wealthiest counties, Charleston County spends less than several other districts in the state per pupil. “Look how many kids we’ve failed,” said the retired Denver, Colo. Teacher. With that in mind, “I’m okay with what we’ve budgeted,” she said.
Settling into the first year of his second term on the board, West Ashley representative Michael Miller said he thinks the 2018 budget includes a little financial cushion over the $435 million the district spent last year.
“This is the second year in a row the administration has asked for a millage increase and despite usually having a surplus, they’re still asking for more money. The question I have is whether the additional money produces better academic results. It didn’t happen last year, so why are we spending more money if we’re not seeing better results.” Miller agrees with Jeffery however. One advantage of the new budget is it puts more teacher resources in schools where they’re needed. As for improved results, “We’ll have to wait and see,” he said.
Miller said he’s optimistic that more teachers in classrooms at Title 1 schools in the district will benefit the academic outcome of Black students, but he’s concerned about the new Middle College program that starts at Trident Technical College’s Palmer Campus in August. Students in ninth through 12th grades will be eligible to attend school at the Palmer Campus in downtown Charleston. At an initial cost of about $660,000 for 100 students, Miller said he’s skeptical about the program that may continue to draw students from Burke High which continues to struggle with its enrollment.
In addition to the operating budget board members have approved capital building expenditures of about $177 million.
Schoool district officials this week said, “This budget takes an intentional step forward to address the achievement gap in Charleston County. We are restoring over 119 positions back to the classroom, many of them in our Title 1 schools. This budget also provides resources to teachers and administrators across the district to improve the process in how we help our students become college and career ready.”
“We are thankful for the relationship we have established with the Charleston County Auditor and Charleston County Treasurer; it enables our ability to be accurate with projections for revenue, so in turn, we can be good stewards with the funds provided to us by the taxpayer.”