State overpaid millions to schools

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Spearman - EOC

The Department of Education superintendent at Monday’s committee meeting

Superintendent not sure how money can be recovered

The Department of Education has been giving schools millions of dollars in excess of what they were supposed to receive.

Education Oversight Committee staffer Bunnie Ward was speaking before the full committee in Columbia Monday when she said there were “discrepancies” between enrollment and per-student payments to school districts.

“We did see an overpayment,” Ward said. “We estimate it’s between $5.1 and $6.3 million dollars during the ’15-’16 year.”

The money was paid for the Child Development Education Program, a state-funded, full-day initiative for four-year-olds.

Asked if she could explain, Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, who serves on the oversight committee ex-officio, said, “I am extremely concerned about this.”

The Department of Education is taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again, Spearman said, adding, “We have called for an audit.”

Asked again how it happened, Spearman said, “What we have discovered is the program people… would report in their numbers. We mailed a check then to the financial folks in the districts.”

The department believed there were more students enrolled than was the case, she said.

“Can we get any of that money back?” asked a committe member.

“Well, we’re going to have to work with the districts on this,” Spearman said, “because it ranges from anywhere from about $20,000 to — I think the highest payment was in one district of about $700,000. Some are more apt to pay it back.”

Spearman became aware of the over-payments about three weeks ago, Ryan Brown, the chief communications officer for the Department of Education, told The Nerve. Spearman, he said, would not be available to discuss the matter until next week.

“We really started digging in at that point in time,” Brown said. “Now we have an external auditor.”

Can the state recover the money?

“We can, that is an option,” Brown said. “Pretty much every option is on the table… We could directly ask for it back from the districts… It’s not a great situation, I’ll be honest with you.”

Spearman met Tuesday with legislative leaders to tell them what had happened, Brown said.

CDEP enrollment for the 2015-2016 school year had been estimated at 13,643 to 13,771 students, according to the committee, with projected state payments of $68.3 million.


  • Nancy

    I’m pretty sure this is easy to explain. No expert on how educational funding works, but is my understanding that it isn’t based on the number of students enrolled, but the number of students of age within said district. As more parents home school or use private school, I ‘think’ the per pupil spending stays the same based on number of children in the district, who are school age. Some of these student may go to non-publicly funded institutions, such as private school, home school, Charter schools, etc.

    • Robert Meyerowitz

      The superintendent tried to explain it but the upshot seems to be that the state needs better controls for enrollment and participation reporting. The funding is indeed based on enrollment, DOE says.

      • Nancy

        Not a fan of that ‘better controls’. That would not only reduce public educational funds, but any form of school choice as well.

  • Steve Haynie

    The School District of Pickens County has been shorted millions of dollars for the K – 12 students each year for the past few years. $6.3 million statewide for what amounts to taxpayer funded daycare is nothing compared to the five or six million dollars per school district that the House Ways and Means committee cuts out of the budget annually.

  • Laird

    Don’t try to “get it back”; just net it against the next year’s payment. Simples!

    • Robert Meyerowitz

      I think one problem there is that then you’re essentially giving them an interest-free loan.

      • Laird

        Of course, but that’s what it is anyway. None of these school districts is going to write a check (and even if they did they wouldn’t pay any interest), so just bow to the inevitable and net the funds.

      • B.

        The state has underfunded school districts for almost 10 years now- per the general assembly’s own funding formula through Act 388. They owe millions to school districts across the state per their own law that the violate every year.

  • colnzgprnts

    It was computed using ‘Common Core Math’ there is no problem, the correct amount is whatever!

    The money comes from the state, therefore it is ‘free money’! – Common Core Logic!

    • Nancy

      Naw… me thinks they don’t understand Common Core 😉

  • Charles Buckner

    Best outcome. Net it out against next years payment. Also, if the formula is based on number of students in the district and not in school this needs to be changed.


    It’s time that we recognize and be honest with ourselves that this program is just a: STATE PAID FOR: CHILD DAY CARE CENTER PROGRAM!!!

    Kids 4 years old do not need pre-kindergarten education.
    There is ZERO proven evidence that any education prior to 1st grade has any outcome whatsoever on how children perform by the 6th grade or higher.

    This is just a very, very, very, expensive day care system paid for by the SC Taxpayers that’s doesn’t do a complete job and is a waste of money.

    Once we fully understand this, then we can design a real day care system for our workers. One that’s less expensive and more effective: 7:00 am till 5:30 pm. A place SC workers can safely leave their children while they try to make a living for their families. Not these expensive sudo day care 4 year old fake education cow manure programs.

  • B.

    The state has violated their own law for years since they passed ACT 388 underfunding school districts according to their own formula- resulting in violating their own law.

    as a result, I don’t mind this “over payment” at all.

  • Anthony Domagala

    In Berkeley County, our trusted public servants manage to “carry over” said unspent funds to supplement their personal finance shortfalls, as well as those of their complicit public utility, treasury signatory Benefactors.

    Soon, unless we’all swindled taxpayers open our collective eyes to this state of southern corruptions’ Freemason mafia organized crime ring, God Father Leathermans’ S. 255 gag order will put we Patriots in jail for exposing same CORRUPTION!