Obama keeps pledge to help J.V. MartinPosted on: 1/28/2010
Almost a year after President Barack Obama promised on prime-time television to help J.V. Martin Junior High School, his administration said Tuesday it will give Dillon County education officials a $23.5 million, low-interest loan to replace the dilapidated facility.
Ty'Sheoma Bethea, then a J.V. Martin eighth-grader, sat next to first lady Michelle Obama last February during Obama's first address to Congress after she had written lawmakers a letter complaining of conditions at the school.
As members of Congress stood and applauded, Obama pointed at Ty'Sheoma and promised to help J.V. Martin and other crumbling schools across the country.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday announced $140.4 million to build or renovate 14 mainly rural hospitals, schools and fire departments in 11 states, including a $35.8 million loan and a $4 million grant for Dillon County schools.
"I'm elated," said Ray Rogers, superintendent of Dillon School District 2. "Because of the economy, we've been in a stew around here trying to get funding for this project. We didn't know how much longer we were going to have to wait."
About $23.5 million, from a 4 percent, 40-year USDA loan, will be used to replace J.V. Martin, Rogers said. Part of the $4 million direct grant will fund construction of a new lunchroom.
The rest of the money will go for renovating the Lake View elementary, middle and high schools in Dillon School District 1, and building a new Early Childhood Development Center next to Latta High School in Dillon School District 3, USDA officials said.
The funds will come from the $787 billion economic-stimulus bill Obama signed into law last February.
"The Recovery Act funds we are announcing today further demonstrate the Obama administration's unyielding efforts to improve the quality of life for rural residents," Vilsack said.
The announcement came on the day before Obama's first formal State of the Union address to be delivered this evening before a joint session of Congress.
Hours before the funding for J.V. Martin and other schools was announced, the Washington Post ran a large front-page photograph of J.V. Martin's condemned auditorium - with an article noting Obama's televised pledge to help it had not been fulfilled.
U.S. House Budget Committee chairman John Spratt, whose 5th Congressional District includes J.V. Martin, said he had met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., over the last year to try to secure funds for the school.
"Ever since Ty'Sheoma Bethea's story put the problems at J.V. Martin on the map, I've been working in South Carolina and in Washington to see what could be done," Spratt said.
Ty'Sheoma, now a high schooler, lives in the Atlanta area. But she, too, continued to push for a new J.V. Martin, appearing at a Martin Luther King Day program in Charleston last week.
The S.C. General Assembly had approved legislation allowing Dillon County residents to vote on a $60 million bond referendum for school improvements.
Dillon voters approved the referendum, but school officials couldn't borrow the money after the bond market dried up in the nationwide credit crunch that helped spark the recession.
"This is a big deal," said S.C. Sen. Kent Williams, a Marion Democrat who helped craft the bond-referendum measure.
"There's no price tag you can put on the value of an education. It's the absolute key to future growth and jobs coming into the area."
Source: The State
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