Hundreds of fire-hazard school buses will continue to take SC students to school this fall. The state’s Republican-controlled Legislature approved spending $20.5 million to replace about 250 of those buses with new ones. However, state education officials say they cannot order the new buses because Gov. Henry McMaster vetoed the money. The money would have come from a surplus of the SC Lottery which McMaster states should be used solely for the scholarships the lottery was created to fund. Lawmakers are refusing to come back to Columbia to override the veto.
Republican leaders say the SC Department of Education could use other money to order buses. Surplus money could pay for them “before the start of the school year, if it truly were a priority,” SC House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, said. The state’s schools agency says it already has used some money set aside for other purposes to buy new school buses. But the Department of Education has stated that the majority of these other monies are designated by lawmakers to be spent on poor rural school districts that are suing the state.
SC Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman stated that 156 new buses were purchased from fuel and operations savings just recently and replacement of the aging bus fleet has been a top priority since she took office in 2015.
Meanwhile, some Democrats are pushing for legislators to return to Columbia to approve spending the money to replace the buses. House Speaker Lucas has stated that it would waste taxpayers funds to call the Legislature back into session. At this time, lawmakers have no plans to return to Columbia to deal with the vetoes They could possibly wait until the next session which starts January 9, 2018.
South Carolina’s aging buses are proving to be a fire hazard for SC students. Seventeen buses have caught fire or dangerously overheated since August, 2015. In some cases, children were on board. Despite the recent purchase of new buses, the state still has a ways to go.