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Monday, June 8, 2009

Governor Sanford Applies for Stimulus Funds "Under Duress"

Governor Mark Sanford has submitted the following cover letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan after being ordered by the South Carolina Supreme Court to apply for stimulus dollars. It is little consolation to know that truth is the daughter of time; for in a short time Governor Sanford will be tragically vindicated when Obama's policies have destroyed America's economy and caused ruin and widespread suffering.

Dear Secretary Duncan,

By order of the South Carolina Supreme Court, I am submitting the attached application for South Carolina's portion of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. In doing so, however, I'd offer a few observations.

First, it's important to state one last time for the record what a monumentally terrible idea I believe the entire so-called stimulus act is, and why in particular utilizing this money as our General Assembly has done is ultimately going to cause more harm than good.

In simplest form, this stimulus represents forcing taxpayers of tomorrow to pay for government services of today. No matter how well-intentioned it may be, borrowing from future generations who have no say in the matter is to me wrong, and strikes me as being akin to the same "taxation without representation" that led to the formation of our Republic more than two centuries ago. We will never solve a problem created by too much debt with still more borrowing, and in fact will exacerbate our problems in the long run by devaluing the dollar, rendering any short-term stimulus moot.

Compounding the problems brought by this destructive federal policy was the way it was implemented by our own legislature in South Carolina. At a practical level, once the stimulus passed this is what my stand against spending the $700 million in question was all about - I believe there will be less employment and opportunity as a result of the restructuring forgone, and the spending incurred, due to spending this money. The leadership of our General Assembly - and in this case with the indirect blessing of the federal Administration - made base state spending reductions across education and law enforcement agencies and backfilled those reductions with federal stimulus dollars. As a consequence South Carolina will face up to a $1 billion budget hole when these stimulus dollars dry up in less than twenty-four months. That frightening budget reality is compounded by the fact that having federal money available has provided yet another excuse for our legislative leadership to forestall long needed changes to our government structure and operations - changes that would have yielded better results from the government we already pay for. An example of this is the TERI program which was put in place years ago to reward excellence in teaching. After its passage a court decision came down that said it couldn't apply to just teachers, but instead to every state worker. Rather than producing its intended result of keeping great teachers on the job longer it became a financial windfall to every long-serving state worker, by allowing them to retire twice and reap the financial rewards of doing so. It created more than a billion dollar financial hole in our retirement system, and were it not for the financial windfall the federal government sent this way this is the year that long overdue changes to things like the TERI system would had to have occurred.

We'd all like to have unlimited dollars to fill the very real needs that exist in our state, but we have to do so on both a state and federal level in the context of what is sustainable - because by spending unsustainably, we will only make our problems worse. In this regard the Obama administration’s financially reckless advocacy of borrowing nearly fifty percent of every dollar being spent in Washington is being exported to state like South Carolina. In the long run I believe it is a financial certainty that this will hurt schools, teachers - and more than anything students who will be paying these debts.

Second, I want to be clear that while I'm signing these documents under duress, I have no ability to promise that many of the mentioned conditions and guarantees will indeed be met. For example, this application requires the state to "take actions to improve teacher effectiveness and comply with federal law to address inequities in the distribution of highly qualified teachers between high- and low-poverty schools"; to "establish a longitudinal data system"; and to "comply with all of the accountability, transparency, and reporting requirements that apply to the Stabilization program."

Our General Assembly may or may not choose to meet those conditions at a later date - I have no way of knowing if they will, and no way of compelling them to do so. In reviewing this application, for me it again highlighted the absurdity of ramrodding federal dollars into the states when I suspect more governors than myself have little ability or wherewithal to say with certainty that these and other conditions under the law can, or will be, carried out. In this case it makes something of a mockery of the law itself given the conditions that were supposedly to be a part of receiving these monies.

Finally, I would appeal to you in your capacity as Secretary of Education to look beyond this idea of money being a cure for all that ails education in our country. I join many others in continuing to believe that we ought to have a diversity of educational choices that fit with the diversity of different young people in our country. We need to give children real options for exiting schools that have consistently failed despite more and more money. We need to work toward expanding the establishment of and access to charter schools. We need transferability options under federal laws that expand educational choices not only in the public sector, but in the private sector as well. My administration would certainly welcome a chance to work with you on these fronts, and I hope to do so in the near future.


Mark Sanford
Mark Sanford


Anonymous said...

Duress, huh... How about the thousands and thousands of children under duress by the decades-long individualist GOP leadership here.

Daniel J. Cassidy said...

It's not the GOP leadership that is holding "thousands and thousands" of children hostage to a system that does not work and will not change. These funds, like all the increases in education spending that have gone before, here and throughout the nation, will not improve test scores or reduce dropout rates. The funds will just provide a bit more for the only people that benefit from the utterly failed education establishment -- teachers and administrators.