With the end of the “education session,” I am pleased to report that the General Assembly has allocated an additional $300 million dollars to the public education regime of our state.
This means teachers will all get a substantial raise; we added $15 million to the base student cost, $68 million for workforce partnerships in technical schools, and $10 million for school resource officers; as well as dollars for new textbooks, new buses, mental health counselors, and other needs.
We were also able to close the gap between the average support for branches of the University of South Carolina and our own baccalaureate-granting branch, USCB.
We have been working to address this lack of parity for many years. Only with the increasing seniority of your Beaufort County legislative delegation have we been able to make progress on this multi-year project.
We also gave our colleges and universities $44 million, in exchange for an agreement to freeze tuition cost for in-state undergrad students. This is something we have heard quite a bit from parents, some of whom have multiple children in college and are taking on debt to manage the outflow from the family budget.
Rose and I are about to send our oldest off to college in the fall and are becoming more than passing familiar with the financial particulars of this matter, especially as our other young’uns are fast approaching college age. Even with expected scholarships and financial aid, the numbers are daunting.
With the end of session until next year, I won’t be making quite so many trips to the Statehouse – although, as a member of leadership, I will still make two or three trips a month. This allows me to do what public servants are supposed to do, and what I enjoy doing. That is: both speaking with and listening to my constituents.
We made a pretty good start last week with two delegation meetings, with both Beaufort and Jasper county meetings being lively, well-attended affairs.
I also had the pleasure of speaking before the Hilton Head Area Homebuilders Association board of directors. We discussed immediate issues before their industry and their “Be Pro Be Proud SC” public-private initiative, to bring a new generation of professionals to South Carolina’s skilled workforce.
I was also pleased to attend the Town of Bluffton’s council meeting with my friend and delegation colleague, Rep. Bill Herbkersman. We presented a check for the latest installment of a grant to build a regional dock at the end of Calhoun Street in Old Town Bluffton. To date, the S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism folks have contributed $500,000 to the effort to replace the town dock.
Finally, I want to speak before your group. Whether Rotary, Lions, Zonta, a professional group or merchant’s group, I need to be able to tell you what we’ve done, and ask what more we need to do. As your representative, I need to have an ongoing conversation with all my constituents.
Please call my office at 843-706-6111. Get on the schedule. We all benefit from open dialog.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov