A South Carolina high school student on Thursday asked the state’s highest court to quickly clear the way for millions of federal stimulus dollars to flow to schools by ending Gov. Mark Sanford’s ability to decline the money.
The lawsuit by Casey Edwards, 18, against the state echoes the views of educators who have predicted hundreds of teacher layoffs if officials don’t use $700 million in federal cash earmarked by Congress mostly for schools.
If the governor can’t be cut out of the process, it says, then state lawmakers should be able to spend the money anyway.
"We feel this is an important issue for the schoolchildren of South Carolina and it needs to be decided quickly," said attorney Dwight Drake.
Edwards, a Chapin High School senior, said she wants students in the state to get the same top-notch education she did. She realized the disparity, she said, while attending a summer school program for gifted and talented students, where she watched the documentary Corridor of Shame on the state’s poor, rural schools.
"It drastically changed my opinion," she said. "I think our schools really do need that money."
Without the money, even prosperous districts like hers will lose out, she said, noting some teachers in her school have been told they won’t have a job next school year.
"A lot of programs–a lot of classes–will be eliminated from our school system and that will be detrimental to a lot of children’s education," said Edwards, who also worries about her two younger siblings, now in ninth and eighth grades.
The lawsuit was filed a day after about 3,000 tax protesters rallied at the Statehouse and cheered Sanford as the Republican prepared to speak. A couple of weeks earlier, hundreds of teachers rallied there, calling for Sanford to be fired for not taking the money.
Sanford said he, not the legislature, has sole authority to ask for the money.
"Thousands of taxpayers in our state stood up yesterday and said they’re tired of government spending beyond its means, that they’re tired of these so-called ‘stimulus’ efforts out of Washington, D.C., and that they’re tired of Columbia insiders like these driving decisions in the statehouse," he said in a release.
"We believe the Supreme Court will ultimately see it as the politically driven press spectacle that it is, rather than a suit with any actual merit."