Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) is requesting his state's share of an education grant authorized as part of last year's stimulus -- a $787-billion pot of money Sanford in part once declined.
The Republican governor spent much of Thursday meeting with Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Washington, according to media reports, pitching his state's application for "Race to the Top" — a billion-dollar, highly competitive grant program designed to encourage schools to innovate.
State officials believe South Carolina is a prime competitor for those education dollars, the first awards of which will be announced in March.
But Sanford's trip this week to lobby on his state's behalf is chiefly noteworthy because of the governor's stalwart opposition to other stimulus programs in the past.
The South Carolina governor announced shortly after federal lawmakers approved the $787 billion Recovery Act that he would not take most of his state's allocated stimulus funds, though he has previously signaled an interest in the Race to the Top program. The state's Supreme Court ultimately overruled Sanford, forcing him to follow state lawmakers' wishes and apply for the roughly $700 million he once rejected.
Still, Sanford — among a handful of other Republican governors — maintained his vocal opposition to the Recovery Act, stressing it would saddle his state with crippling debt once the money spigot dried up.
"In essence what we have right now is an export of Washington's financial recklessness to states across the country," he told Fox News shortly after the court's decision. "And I think we will see it ultimately met with not jobs, but frankly, disastrous consequences in terms of this country's finances and, frankly, in terms of state's finances across the country."
By contrast, Sanford's office told The State newspaper on Friday that the governor was no longer interested in fighting the stimulus — a pledge Sanford's trip to Washington this week to campaign for Race to the Top dollars seemed to solidify.
After learning of the meeting, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who has publicly lambasted Sanford for turning down other stimulus programs, praised the governor's latest call.
"I am pleased to see that the governor is finally taking an interest in South Carolina's public schools," Clyburn's spokesman told The State. "After going to court last year to prevent stimulus funds from coming to South Carolina, his meeting with Secretary Duncan appears to be the governor's admission that the stimulus was not only necessary but effective. I hope this is an indication he is willing to move forward together."