- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 1, 2009

Days after President Obama singled out a run-down school in South Carolina as a reason the federal government needs to get involved, the state’s governor, Mark Sanford” href=”/themes/?Theme=Mark+Sanford” >Mark Sanford, says the problem isn’t money, it’s the government’s monopoly over public schools.

Mr. Sanford, in a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times, also announced he will reject at least a portion of the funds from Mr. Obama’s economic-stimulus bill.

Mr. Sanford, a Republican and one of the conservative governors who regularly draws speculation about a 2012 presidential bid, took issue with the lesson Mr. Obama drew during his address to Congress from Ty’Sheoma Bethea, an eighth-grade student at J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon, S.C. She wrote asking Congress to fund reconstruction of her crumbling school.

“We have a system that locks a kid into the school district of government’s choice, not the individual parent or child’s choice, and so the irony is certain kids are required to go to that very school and given no choice as to other options,” Mr. Sanford said.

He also said that since the government is borrowing the money for the stimulus bill, Miss Bethea will end up paying her own bill.

“We’re not talking about taking money out of a giant piggy bank in Washington, D.C. This is money that’s going to be handed to the next generation. So in fact, the kid is going to pay twice - once with an inferior education; and two, with a bill in fixing this school,” he said.

Miss Bethea’s letter has become a political issue back home, where South Carolina Senate Minority Leader John Land, a Democrat, last week called on Mr. Sanford to visit the school. He told the Charleston Post and Courier that the governor should “cut back on his national travel schedule and look within his own state at the problems that can be addressed with recovery dollars from the federal government.”

Mr. Sanford played down the possibility of a presidential run - “I don’t think so,” he said - but laid out a limited-government philosophy he said Republicans must pursue. He said that core value is more important to his party regaining strength over the next four years than to “appeal more to minorities and to Hispanics and to use technology more and make sure you have the right answer to every problem that ails you under the sun.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele recently told The Times he is determined to broaden the party’s outreach to minorities. Mr. Sanford said Mr. Steele’s efforts will be part of a solution, but said it’s just one voice.

“The beauty of the Republican Party is we’re disjointed,” he said.

Mr. Sanford was pointedly critical of the $787 billion stimulus bill Mr. Obama signed into law, saying it put the country on the “tipping point” between the U.S. model of capitalism and the “European model with a lot in the way of social transfer and welfare payments.”

He said he will join other governors who said they will reject part of the funds because strings attached to unemployment insurance compensation money are too much to bear.

“I haven’t publicly declared it, but I can tell you on or off the record that, I can tell you where we end up, which is we’re not going to be taking it,” the governor said.

Mr. Sanford rejected the challenge of some Democrats that he refrain from using any of the money because he didn’t support the bill.

“When I was in Congress, I was alongside a bunch of Democrats on say the House side or the Senate side who fought against tax cuts, worked against tax cuts,” he said. “And yet when it went down, they did not go back to their home district or their home state and say, ‘Look, you guys need not to accept this tax cut, because if you do it will completely undermine the philosophical point I was trying to make in representing you.’ ”

Story Continues →