South Carolina unemployment falls, but tourism jobs vanish

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s unemployment picture has improved overall, with 20,000 people finding work and businesses reopening as they adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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But restaurants, hotels and other tourism businesses continue to struggle, having lost more jobs even in the height of the summer season, according to the August unemployment figures released Friday by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.

The unemployment rate in South Carolina dropped to 6.3% in August, down from 8.7% in July and 12.8% in April during the peak of the outbreak, the agency said.

The unemployment rate has recovered quicker in this downturn than the Great Recession, where the drop from the 11.7% peak in December 2009 to 6.3% took more than four years, agency director Dan Ellzey said.

“We are by no means back to normal in our state, but these milestones should be acknowledged and celebrated,”

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South Carolina justices reopen courtroom with school funding lawsuit

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Meeting in person for oral arguments for the first time since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments Friday over whether Gov. Henry McMaster has the power to direct $32 million in federal pandemic relief funds to private schools.

A central question of the lawsuit filed against the governor and conservative think tank Palmetto Promise Institute in July is whether the funds — the majority of the $48 million in discretionary education dollars granted to McMaster by the federal Department of Education — are considered public money, and how they can be used.

McMaster unveiled the plan for Safe Access to Flexible Education, or SAFE, grants earlier that month at a religious school in Greenville. The governor said the one-time program would cover about 5,000 grants of up to $6,500 for students to attend private schools this academic year and help

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North Carolina judge backs education spending plan

A North Carolina judge agreed Tuesday to sign an order that calls for $427 million in additional education spending this year to carry out longstanding court rulings on public school funding.

Superior Court Judge David Lee backed the spending plan developed by the State Board of Education and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

The package, which includes teacher pay raises, more funding for at-risk students and expanded early childhood education programs, would need funding from the General Assembly to happen. A judge can’t force lawmakers to spend the money, however.

The judge is in charge of carrying out responses to state Supreme Court rulings during the 1990s and 2000s related to the state constitution’s mandate for public education.

The Supreme Court ruled in the case known as “Leandro” — the name of an original plaintiff — that the state’s children have

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