In May, he refused to apply for grant money needed by South Carolina’s public schools.
In August, he flat-out rejected money from the federal Education Jobs fund.
Last month, he snubbed opportunity to participate in a cost-free program that made schools eligible for financial rewards.
And this week, Mick Zais is refusing to tell anyone – even the South Carolina Dept. of Education he represents as Superintendent – about any other money available for use by the state’s cash-strapped schools.
According to The State, the SCDE board of directors issued instructions to Zais that he provide monthly updates on alternate sources of funding, including grants from both private organizations and the federal government, that could individually provide at least $10 million per application. He would also have to detail his decision on why he’d pursue or reject those grants. His first report was to be provided by Dec. 8.
Zais openly refused those instructions, however, declaring the board’s request to be a display of he called “partisan politics(.)”
“I will not abide by the unprecedented political power grab that this policy statement represents,” Zais said at the board’s last meeting.
SCDE’s board argues that its goals in the recent order are anything but political, however. Instead, according to 16 of its 17 members, the board was only interested in acquiring needed funding to accommodate budget shortages.
“If the money is there, significant amounts of money, it should be brought to the attention of the board and we should discuss whether to apply for it,” said SCDE board member Tim Moore. “It ought to be a cooperative effort.”
Beginning in the 2006-07 fiscal year, the Act 388 previously passed by the state legislature removed property taxes as a source for school funding in exchange for sales taxes.
The economic recession that hindered retail sales and collection of sales taxes began shortly after, making the risks of such variable funding come to light.
Approximately 1,400 school teachers have been laid off, while the salaries of those still employed by the state have been cut by approximately $20 million.
The only SCDE board member siding with Zais is Michael Brenan, the sole appointee to SCDE by Gov. Nikki Haley. Earlier this year, Haley openly supported Zais’ decision to refuse the Education Jobs funding.
Brenan said he was “opposed to anything” SCDE would request of Zais, who Brenan says is only obligated to voters.
Zais’ spokesman Jay Ragley iterates Brenan’s opinion. “The state board of education doesn’t operate the department of education,” Ragley told Associated Press.
SCDE chairperson Gerrita Postlewait disagrees with that statement, however, especially regarding this particular circumstance that includes seeking government grants. “It’s our federal tax dollars as well.”
Zais has continuously sought to remove any presence of the federal government, though.
In May of 2011, shortly after taking office in January, Zais refused to apply for a “Race to the Top” federal grant, which the state had continuously sought for the past two years. “Schools need less, not more, federal intrusion,” he said in explanation.
South Carolina was of guaranteed status to receive funding from this program, according to Molly Spearman, executive director of the state’s Association of School Administrators.
In August, Zais rejected $149 million in next-phase funding from the American Jobs Act. After his written refusal, the money was sent to other states even though it consisted of funds derived from South Carolina taxpayers. In written refusal to the U.S. Dept. of Education, he stated the Act was only an attempt to “inject Washington politics into South Carolina’s affairs.” Gov. Haley openly supported Zais’ decision.
Approximately 6,400 teaching jobs in the state were preserved by the American Jobs Act when first instituted in 2009, and are again at risk due to lack of state funding.
Last month, Zais announced refusal to participate in the “Green-Ribbon Schools” program, a new federal awards plan that would award schools making efforts to reduce environmental impacts upon their communities.
There is no spending required from a school seeking nomination, but he claimed the program would be a “financial cost that will be borne by state and local taxpayers.” In a letter of rejection to the U.S. Dept. of Education, Zais said the award program was only “placating environmental lobbyists.”
Making lots of news lately is the House Republican’s overriding of a new law pertaining to the nutritional content of lunches served at public schools.
In a nutshell (and this isn’t a joke), they’ll have the frozen pizza served in public schools to be classified as a vegetable, thus categorizing it as "healthy," in a way. And under this new category, pizza would remain qualified for frequent servings, with most paid for by the federal government, under new nutritional guidelines, too.
And not only does this concept stink, but its odor is reminiscent.
Think back to 1981, when the USDA attempted to reclassify as a vegetable the ketchup served in public schools.
But even though the circumstances are remarkably similar (each consisting of the GOP trying to magically modify the nutritional class of processed tomato-based products), they still have notable differences.
Last time, it was just a scheme to cut funding from the school lunch program for budgetary reasons.
This time, though, it’s a scam, and to directly benefit companies whose lobbyists have littered the capitol in efforts to promote their own profits.
Under the Gramm-Latta Bill of 1981, $1 billion was slashed from the budget of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. That left USDA with 90 days to accommodate that cut while still maintaining nutritional requirements in foods served at public schools. Pressed for a quick, low-budget response, the USDA proposed reclassifying the ketchup condiment as a vegetable in order to reduce serving costs.
It was supported by Pres. Reagan and his appointed USDA Sec. John Block (who came up with the proposal), but after catching lots of flak nationwide, this reclassification program was dropped, shuffling ketchup back into the condiment corner.
Now flash forward to late 2010. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which essentially is a modified reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, was passed while Democrats still had a majority in both houses of Congress, then signed into law in December.
This modification requires public school lunches to follow new nutritional guidelines, and with goal of addressing the ever-increasing circumstances that affect today’s youth. Hoping to counter the trend of increased obesity and poor health in kids, the Act called for reductions to fat and salt content in school meals, along with more servings of fruits, vegetables and grains.
The Act is much needed here in South Carolina, too, it seems. We’ve been one of the top-ranked states in obesity since 1985, and today between 25 and 29.9 percent of our population is obese. Approximately 58 percent of public school students in the state receive free or reduced-cost lunches covered by the Act. And South Carolina could use all the help it can get for these lunch programs, as those students have recently been stuck with nothing more than peanut butter sandwiches at times.
Making the need much more apparent, this trend in poor nutrition even affects our national security. According to Mission:Readiness, an organization of retired military officers, 27 percent of American youth aged 17 to 24 (about 9 million) are “too fat to fight,” and would be excluded from service due to obesity.
So who could complain about this new Act? It not only protects the health of today’s kids, and it doesn’t just serve a need for us here in South Carolina; it also protects our nation and its security as a whole, too.
Yesterday, though, the Republican Party (which took a majority in the U.S. House beginning this January) modified the Act. That’s right – pizza is back on the list for frequent school servings, only now it’s been reclassified as a healthy, nutritious vegetable.
And how is this different from the 1981 “ketchup is a vegetable” debacle? Well, this time it’s not to accommodate any budget cuts. Instead, it seems the GOP is heavily promoting this fallacy to benefit their own campaign budgets.
Clamoring for exclusions to the Act’s recommendations is none other than the American Frozen Food Institute, a contributor to the $5.6 million spent so far this year in lobbying efforts to change the Act to its liking.
And 81 percent of the campaign donations this same AFFI tossed out over the last two decades went to (you guessed it) Republicans.
Members of AFFI include the manufacturers of frozen pizzas, too; in fact, AFFI is the parent organization of the National Frozen Pizza Association.
(It also represents frozen French fry companies; under the Act, kids would only receive one serving of fries per week from their school cafeterias to reduce saturated fat and sodium intake. Republicans took that restriction out, too, of course.)
So, instead of protecting the future of our country, House Republicans protected the sales of fat and cholesterol items for their campaign contributors instead.
And don’t even try to reply with a “you say tomato sauce, I say tomato” counterargument. An average slice of frozen pizza contains a mere two teaspoons of tomato sauce originating from paste (about 20 grams), as TPM recently calculated using information from Corey Henry, vice-president of communications for AFFI.
Using the nutrition label from a nearby can of Hunt’s tomato sauce as reference, those two teaspoons amount to 0.645 percent of the recommended daily allowance for Vitamins A and C. Aside from one-quarter of a gram of fiber (one percent of the RDA), no other nutrients are included.
As a result, then, the microscopic contents of two vitamins completely nullify GOP/AFFA claims that frozen pizza served in public schools can in any way provide any nutritional value whatsoever, let alone constitute a vegetable.
In addition (using the RDA label of a simple DiGiornio’s pepperoni pizza for comparative calculation), tomato sauce is only one-seventh (14.3 percent) of the total content of a one-slice serving. And what’s the nutritional content of the remaining 86 percent?
Well, there’s a little calcium from the cheese, some iron from the dough (and for some reason this sample doesn’t even have any Vitamin C), but … that one slice also contains 35 percent of the RDA for saturated fat (seven grams) and 42 percent of recommended sodium intake (1,010 milligrams).
And remind yourself, now – what exactly are the health problems that this Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act intends to address? Obesity, which is primarily caused by high intake of saturated fat, and health, which is directly influenced by both fat and high sodium intake.
We’ve always known the GOP to be representative of nothing other than its donors, and which is all the more apparent in this case, too. But did they have to resort to a “let them eat pizza” tactic? Especially on an issue that pertains not just to our children, but to the future of our country, too?
Mick Zais, superintendent of South Carolina’s Dept. of Education, recently refused $149 million in federal funding for our state’s schools. The federal government has no right to contribute to South Carolina’s public education, he said.
Instead, that money – which is directly derived from the taxes we ourselves pay – is now going to schools in the other 49 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. South Carolina is the only one left out of the picture.
And after recent final notice from the U.S. Dept. of Education, Zais finalized that rejection with bitterness, claiming that last contact to be example of “wasted taxpayers’ resources(.)”
But where does that leave us South Carolina taxpayers, who are the source of that $149 million? This rejection of our own tax money to our own schools (which are currently operating at their lowest budget in 20 years and at risk of massive layoffs) is nothing but a prime example of “wasted taxpayers’ resources” in and of itself.
And who says we have to take it lightly? While it certainly leaves us and our children (not to mention the future of our state) hanging dry, it doesn’t have to leave us silent.
That’s why you’ll find documents on this page that you can download and submit to Zais as a billing statement to recover your loss.
That’s right – a bill. It was your money he threw away, after all. And you have every right to request it be returned to you.
As a result, the $149 million in federal funding offered to our state’s public schools amounts to $32.21 per South Carolina resident.
Following your rejection of this funding, which is derived directly from the income taxes we South Carolinians pay to the federal government, I am left with no other choice but to seek personal compensation of those now-lost funds, which we recently learned are going to benefit all other states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia instead of our own.
This submission, then, is a bill. I now find you and your office to owe me the $32.21 of my tax dollars you decided to waste and give away.”
The billing statement (available in both the 07 and 03 versions of MS Word) can be downloaded right here. The submission address is included on the document, too, and even a clippable statement for him to include with his payment. All you have to do is add your name and address, along with the date of submittal.
Feel free to make any changes you like, of course. But please send Zais the statement. Those were your tax dollars for education in your state, and which could have benefited South Carolina in so many residual ways (employment, earnings, job retention, new business development, etc.).
Federal funding originally intended for South Carolina public schools is now going to other states instead. But not because the U.S. Dept. of Education planned it that way.
In a letter issued yesterday, state Supt. of Education Mick Zais formally refused $149 million in funds allotted specifically for South Carolina, which will now be added to the funds distributed to the remaining 49 states, as well as Dist. of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
And why is that? Because the federal government has no role in our state’s schools, Zais says in this latest of funding refusals.
The U.S. Dept. of Education sent multiple reminders of application for the “Edu Jobs” program, which was approved by congress last September, but never received response from Zais’ office.
According to the Post & Courier, Ann Whalen recently made a last contact with Zais reminding him of an upcoming deadline. “We hope that teachers and students in South Carolina will be able to benefit from these funds,” the USDE Deputy Director wrote on August 5.
The reminder was bitterly received, however. In a written reply submitted yesterday, Zais told Whalen “I regret that your agency wasted taxpayers’ resources to inform the state again about something it and USDE already knew.
“Instead, your letter appears as another attempt to inject Washington politics into South Carolina’s affairs.”
Edu Jobs was created to help states prevent teacher layoffs, hire new staff and award overdue pay raises.
The absence of this particular funding, which could have paid the salaries of over 3,000 public school employees in South Carolina, could result in layoffs. Public school teachers in the state have not had any pay increase in over three years, as well.
The effect on school employment in the state is a top complaint of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators.
“This is about jobs,” says Molly Spearman, executive director of SCASA, who says the employment creation and preservation the funding would have provided would also have benefited the state in other ways, too. “(Edu Jobs) would go to people who would be working in South Carolina – buying groceries, paying taxes.
“It was a way to jumpstart our economy,” she offers.
SCASA anticipated these funding problems after Zais’ election last year, though. School districts are now using “already dwindling” reserve funds to preserve jobs, Spearman says.
The resultant employment-stifling leaves South Carolina in jeopardy of losing qualified educators, too. Citing one recent example of 65 applicants for a single 1st grade teacher’s job as an example, Spearman believes many South Carolinians who just graduated with degrees in education will be forced to move out of state in search of employment. Current teachers facing unemployment risks due to lack of funding will have to do the same, too.
“This whole ideology is disturbing,” Spearman says.
The funding rejection is also supported by Gov. Haley, whose spokesman Rob Godfrey told the Post & Courier “the solution to our education challenges is not a federal bailout.”
Refusal of participation in Edu Jobs is just the latest funding rejection by Zais. Earlier this year, he withdrew the state from federal “Race to the Top” grant applications, as well, and for the same reasons.
The grant “expands the federal role in education by offering pieces of silver in exchange for strings attached to Washington,” Zais stated in a May 25 press release. “Schools need less, not more, federal intrusion to increase student achievement.”
SCDE participated in “Race to the Top” in the 2009 and 2010. Grants ranging from $10 million to $50 million were to be awarded to nine qualifying states in 2011.
South Carolina was of guaranteed status to receive “Race to the Top” funding this year, Spearman says.
SCDE annual budgets have been reduced by $75 million since the 2006-07 fiscal year following passage of Act 388, which removed property taxes as a source for school funding in exchange for sales taxes. Budgets for particular programs such as students’ meals and health services have been cut in half.
There’s no such thing as global warming, dinosaurs and humans once lived together, and “Bible-believing Christians cannot accept any evolutionary interpretation.”
And the textbooks that teach these and other mythical whims –even fallacies that promote racism – are trying to bust into schools at the cost of taxpayers.
That’s right – some folks want you and me to pay for these “institutional” texts, which are produced by A Beka Book and South Carolina’s own Bob Jones University Press, and under the premise of "school choice."
It should be bad enough that some far-right religious groups want children to believe these falsehoods, but it gets worse. The true intentions of these texts are not to promote the values or beliefs of any faith; they’re only to benefit a corporatist bend in government, and by tricking children (tomorrow’s voters) into ignoring factual circumstances that can savagely detriment the world as we know it.
Rachel Tabachnick, a researcher who focuses on the political tricks of Christian Zionism and the Religious Right, teamed up with Talk To Action cohort Bruce Wilson to compile a video detailing how “the textbooks in these series teach young earth creationism; hostility toward other religions and other sectors of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism; and a biased version of history that is often factually incorrect.”
Below is a five-minute preview of the in-depth research; you can see the entire 34-minute video by clicking here.
If anything is holding back environmental improvements to energy in the U.S., it could simply be that not enough folks know about them.
For example, a recent study by Pike Research found that approval of renewable and alternate energies seems to improve with age and educational achievement.
Americans widely support the concepts of renewable and reusable energy, especially those which are more well-known to the general public, according to Pike’s “Energy & Environment Consumer Survey.”
Take solar energy, for example, which 79 percent of all Americans favor, the study found. Only 52 percent of adults without a completed high school education approve of solar energy, though, while 83 percent of those who attended graduate school do.
Same thing goes for age; 71 percent of consumers under 30 years agree with solar power, but this approval reaches 86 percent for those aged 45 to 64.
While 75 percent of the overall population states approval of wind energy, another well-known alternate power source, only 50 percent of those who didn’t complete high school do, and only 65 percent of adults between 18 and 29 years of age regard it favorably.
While 64 percent approve of hybrid vehicles, which can be powered by both gasoline and non-polluting fuels, only 39 percent without a high school diploma approve. Seventy-two percent of those with education beyond a bachelor’s degree favor hybrids, though, and 68 percent of senior citizens like them compared to 61 percent of the under 30 group.
And differences in educational achievement could have substantial impact on reception when it comes to electric cars, too. Only 43 percent of Americans with less than high school education approve of them, but 69 percent of those with graduate school educations do.
So are experience in life in general and education in particular relevant to environmental awareness?
Well … that remains just a strong possibility, says Pike Research analyst Bryan Davis, who explains that while the study may support that conclusion, it was not conducted with sole purpose to confirm it.
“That is a possible theory,” says Davis, “but there’s no way to confirm it from the survey data,” which breaks down information quantitatively by respondent demographics, but not fully qualitatively.
Also, there are particular enviro-friendly energy sources that are more well-known by younger Americans, Davis noted upon Pike’s blog.
For example, consider LEED; favorable reception of this “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” a rating system on home and building construction operated by the U.S. Green Building Council, is highest for those under the age of 30.
This LEED example could indicate that age of respondents is possibly interrelated to the youth of particular energy concepts. While the relatively-new LEED program is known best and respected most by younger Americans, energy sources of longer standing such as nuclear energy have highest favorable reception from seniors.
While this particular summation could indicate need for improved public knowledge of enviro-friendly energy sources, a general assessment of survey results might indicate this best: overall, an average of 21 percent of Americans admit unfamiliarity with alternate energy concepts. And, and Pike Research’s study alludes, those who are familiar widely approve of them.
By improving education of energy efficiency and environmental awareness, the consumer public could improve practice of these concepts, especially within the youth who will be tomorrow’s leaders.
Pike Research’s “Energy & Environment Consumer Survey” was released on February 7, and is available for download from its website.
Progressive Blue in the Red State of South Carolina