By Janet Frazier
Are 85 school districts needed for 46 counties? This is one topic avoided by all candidates for governor as well as current legislators.
That’s because it’s a political land mine in South Carolina. Candidates and incumbents want to discuss increasing taxes to increase the revenue for state agencies as well as furloughing teachers and cutting the number of required school days for children, but no one wants to discuss restructuring.
This report reflects the expenses of superintendents and school boards in South Carolina as reported by the South Carolina Department of Education.
The total expenditures for superintendent and school board expenses for FY 2008 were $81,345,960; up from $78,948,166 in FY 2007 and $71,639,910 in FY 2006.
These expenses are for the superintendent salary, superintendent assistant(s), travel for superintendent and school board members expenses ONLY. The combined total for three years for 85 superintendents and 85 school boards was $231,934,039.
These expenses could be reduced by 50-75 percent by consolidating school districts. In the last three years (FY 2006-2008), no less than 44 entire school districts (not schools) had fewer than 5,000 students each year.
The per-pupil expenditures have a very wide range, from $39 per pupil in Florence School District 1 to $393 per pupil in Allendale School District.
Florence School District 1 had 15,385 students enrolled and Allendale School District had 1,634 students enrolled for the 2007-2008 school year.
Florence School District 1 has the lowest cost annually for each fiscal year reviewed. Allendale School District had the highest per-pupil cost in FY 2006 and FY 2008.
Greenville School District is the largest school district in this state with 69,360 students enrolled during the 2007-2008 school year. It ranked as second lowest in terms of expenditures, paying out only $40 per pupil, for a total of $2,754,812 for FY 2008. The total expended for Greenville over the three-year period was just over $8 million.
Charleston County School District is the second-largest school district in this state with 41,762 students enrolled during the 2007-2008 school year. It expended the most during 2007-07 school year, $14,908,150. The per-pupil expenditure for Charleston was $357, therefore exceeding Greenville by $317 per pupil.
That means Charleston County School District expended approximately 800 percent more per pupil than Greenville County for the 2007-2008 year. The total expended for Charleston over the three-year period was $39,183,785, exceeding Greenville by $31,139,651.
Horry County School District is the third-largest school district in this state, with 37,111 students enrolled for the 2007-2008 school year. It expended nearly $2.2 million for 2007-2008 school year. Per-pupil expenditures for Horry County during FY 2008 was $59 and the total over the three years was $6,175,770.
Charleston County School District exceeded Horry County School District for expenses for its superintendent and school board by approximately 550 percent for the 2007-2008 school year even though Horry County School District has just 11 percent fewer students than Charleston County School District.
Lexington School District One has 55 percent fewer students than Horry County and expends more taxpayer funds for superintendent and school board expenses.
Lexington School District One expended $2.2 million on its 20,912 students enrolled in FY 2008, compared to Horry County School District, which spent about the same amount but had 37,111 students.
The Charleston, Richland 1, Berkeley, Aiken, Greenville, Lexington 1, Horry, Richland 2, Darlington and Beaufort school districts expended a total of $105,889,447 during Fiscal Years 2006, 2007 and 2008. That represents 45 percent of the entire amount expended by all 85 school districts.
To see a breakdown of the expenditures at the above districts during fiscal years 2006, 2007 and 2008, go here.
To see how much in taxpayer funds were spent on superintendant and school board expenses, go to district expense information on the S.C. Department of Education’s Web site.