Texas Two Step Comes to Carolina
I admit I am not a dancer. I just have two left feet and little gross motor coordination; however, I am aware of a dance move called the “Texas Two Step.” I am also aware of other connotations of the phrase: (1) jerking one’s car steering wheel into another lane with the expressed purpose of getting room in the desired lane by forcing the person behind to hit the breaks and (2) an overly complicated mechanism by which the Democratic party choose “super delegates” in, of course, Texas.
But lo and behold we have now our own “Texas Two Step” Carolina Style. Let me explain.
On Wednesday, the (SC) House Ways and Means Committee met and developed a new tact for our state’s inability to pay teachers according to the proposed (and now horribly out-of-line) Base Student Cost (i.e., the way district's receive much of their state funding).
There has been a lot of press about teacher salaries and the sad, unfortunate truth many college graduates no longer consider (much less enter) the teaching profession. Marvelous soundbites abound with how we need to increase teacher salaries. Enter again the Texas Two Step-Carolina Style! Read the section below very slowly and carefully...it can be confusing...just like the Texas Two Step would be for me if I had to learn to dance.
The Committee rolled up the EFA (Educational Finance Act--1977) budget line and the General Fund budget fringe line to create a new line that will henceforth be called the State Aid to Classrooms. By rolling up these two lines, what we have known for years as a Base Student Cost (BSC) now becomes the newly minted State Aid to Classrooms. When you combine the EFA line which is the equivalent of a BSC of $2485 and add the fringe line to that we now have, a per pupil State Aid to Classrooms of $3,846 per pupil. While the language to allocate this has not yet been adopted, it is the understanding that these funds will be allocated using the the same EFA methodology we have used in the past for both pots.
The above paragraph really boils down to this...it’s the Texas Two Step-Carolina Style. Existing funds are being used to pay for proposed raises (and by sheer number strength alone it looks like an increase). But as a good Texas Two Stepper knows, there’s really little new money. In fact, it is likely (to the tune of “Highly”) local money will have to pick up the step increases beyond the state-proposed “pat-ourselves-on-the-back” teacher raises. Step increases are the annual increases for teachers usually from newly hired to twenty-two years.
What this means ultimately is it MAY look like more money but it is actually LESS money (since local districts will have to pick up any step increases and any raises to ANYONE who is not a teacher but is employed by the district. Think bus drivers, cafeteria workers, secretaries, and so on...VERY, VERY important people in any district’s organization.
Further, $159 million is allocated to move the beginning salary for teachers to $35,000 and a 4% raise. These funds will be placed in the State Aid to Classrooms line and will be allocated using EIA teacher salary supplement methodology. Again, no allocation language has been adopted.
And as Aesop most notably had at the end of every fable...the moral to the story: THERE IS NO NEW MONEY ADDED TO THE STATE AID TO CLASSROOMS LINE. It is simply a roll up of the two previously discussed lines.
Anybody want to dance?
(Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of Laurens School District 56.)