Originally created 02/24/03

Bill would compensate teachers



AIKEN - Legislators writing the state's woefully slim budget last week gave educators two reasons to smile.

If the House and Senate accept recommendations from the House budget committee, teachers will receive raises totaling $15 million.

Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, the chairman of the House subcommittee on public education, also said local school districts would be given more flexibility in the use of state funds designated for specific programs.

Those two moves are part of a budget for the coming fiscal year that has a $783 million shortfall.

"It was a depressing week, to say the least, (really) for the last three weeks, already knowing what kind of revenue I was going to have to deal with," Mr. Smith said. "Seeing all of that, I think we did very well. There were some real difficult decisions to make with the parameters of money they gave my committee to work with."

As legislators wrangled over the state's budget, one House member introduced a bill last week that would tie the funds given to local governments to a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Rep. Fletcher Smith, D-Greenville, filed the measure, which would order the state treasurer to verify that counties and cities have a holiday honoring the civil rights leader before the state hands out any money.

The bill comes on the heels of a similar bill filed by Mr. Smith two weeks ago that would mandate the holiday for all local governments. That bill did not include the financial penalty.

Mr. Smith's efforts on behalf of a King holiday coincided with a similar push from another civil rights leader. Last week, the Rev. Jesse Jackson asked the Greenville County Council to approve a holiday.

Greenville and seven other counties don't observe a King holiday, according to a survey from the South Carolina Association of Counties.

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or matthew.boedy@augustachronicle.com.