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Hurricane Gray Swirls Toward South Carolina

Today, Dr. Matthew Ladner of the Foundation for Excellence in Education released his second piece of original research on the demographic challenges facing state education budgets, entitled Hurricane Gray Swirls toward South Carolina: Age Demographic Change and the Near Future of South Carolina Education.SC

The analysis contains both research on the demographic challenges facing South Carolina and strategies for substantially improving the academic quality of the state’s K-12 schools at a price taxpayers can afford.

“The keys to surviving and thriving through Hurricane Gray lie in expanding economic growth and improving the bang for the buck in the delivery of vital public services—most critically in health and education,” said Dr. Ladner. “In education, this innovation needs to start right away. To support both the young and elderly, the working-age South Carolinians of the future who are sitting in today’s classrooms must be educated, skilled and innovative. This can be accomplished through educational choice, college and career pathways and personalized learning.”

Many leaders have recognized how the impending retirement of millions of baby boomers is poised to deplete national and state public services budgets, particularly in health care. But what has not been actively discussed is how a growing elderly population, combined with a growing youth population and a shrinking American workforce, stands to eliminate any possibility of states maintaining current funding levels for K-12 public education.

“South Carolina has made remarkable progress in advancing student achievement. But still, too many teenagers are leaving school unprepared for college or a high-paying career,” said Patricia Levesque, CEO of ExcelinEd. “This report begins a conversation in the Palmetto State on the fiscal challenges South Carolina’s public education system will face in the coming years and the educational solutions that can help pave the way to a brighter economic future.

The aging of the population between now and 2030 will profoundly impact all aspects of the financing and operation of South Carolina’s taxpayer funded services.

  • In 2010, for every 100 working age people, South Carolina had 59 people under 18 and over 65. In 2030, the Census Bureau projects that it will be 79 young/old for every 100 working age people – a growth of nearly 35 percent.
  • In 2000, South Carolina spent 16.9 percent of the state budget on K-12 education with just 10 percent growth in spending during the next fourteen years to 18.4 percent. Unlike education, spending on Medicaid totaled 16.1 percent of the budget in 2000, ballooning by 50 percent to 24.6 percent in 2014.

“Guaranteed by the constitution and firmly supported by South Carolinians – public education demands the immediate attention of policy leaders,” said Ellen E. Weaver, President of the Palmetto Promise Institute. “Our classrooms are growing and there is a critical need for innovation to ensure our students are successful.”

The report suggests South Carolina’s policy leaders should consider:

  • Education Savings Accounts: Allow South Carolina parents to create a customized education tailored to the unique needs of their children through Education Savings Accounts.
  • Digital Learning & Course Access: Expand digital learning and provide greater course access through existing programs, such as VirtualSC, to help districts stretch already limited budgets, expand offerings from diverse, accountable providers and reach the rising demand for different types of courses.
  • College & Career Readiness Incentives: Consider awarding bonuses to schools whose students earn college credit by exam and/or high-demand professional certifications.
  • High Performing Charter Schools: Pursue policies to help high-quality charter school operators expand the number of seats they can offer to parents.

For more information on this report and the original Turn and Face the Strain report visit