Gov. Henry McMaster says plan links money for schools to economic development
Will a novel approach to help fund South Carolina’s poorest school districts work?
In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Henry McMaster promoted a state-backed economic development commitment to bring jobs to the state’s poorer school districts. The plan is to provide funding for infrastructure, including water, sewer, and roads, along with school buildings and facilities.
“We must provide the spark,” said McMaster. “My executive budget creates the “Rural School District Economic Development Closing Fund.” This fund will provide $100 million dollars for our Department of Commerce to use as a ‘closing fund’ to bring new jobs and investment to our poorest school districts.“
In an interview Friday, McMaster reiterated his commitment to the plan
“Where there is not a tax base, they have to develop one,” McMaster said.
He said industry cannot be told where to locate, but offering money for infrastructure may help some communities compete, and attract industry and jobs.
“We can’t make them do it,” McMaster said. “It’s free enterprise. But we can provide incentives.”
The idea of providing money for schools in poorer districts is not new. Past administrations have made millions available. But McMaster said tying funding for schools to attracting long term jobs is an approach that can work.
“We’ve tried everything else on earth,” McMaster said.
At the State of the State address, McMaster referenced Dr. Wanda Andrews, the Superintendent of the rural Lee County School District. He said once the products of the schools leave in many impoverished areas of the state, they seldom come back, except for a family reunion or a homecoming football game.
McMaster said Andrews told him that a new manufacturing plant offering 500 jobs in her district would change everything.
McMaster also said in the State of the State address” “Dr. Andrews, that is exactly what we are going to do: change everything. The words “Corridor of Shame” will be a distant memory.” Corridor of Shame is a term used to describe a portion of the state along Interstate – 95 that includes some of the state’s poorest school districts.
What is promising about McMaster’s plan, he said, is that there is a consensus to get it done. McMaster said the state’s General Assembly- both Republicans and Democrats- are on board with the plan.