Stimulus Money Reaches School In Need -- A Year After Obama's Promise

Almost one full year after President Obama promised assistance, the USDA announced Tuesday that the dilapidated school districts of Dillon, S.C. would receive almost $40 million in stimulus money — after the Washington Post reported the district???s continued lack of federal aid.

In his Feb. 24, 2009 address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama referenced the story of Dillon resident Ty???Sheoma Bethea???s efforts to procure assistance to rebuild her decaying school building. He used the story to emphasize values of hope, resilience, and personal responsibility during trying economic times.

???Their resolve must be our inspiration,??? he stated of the three people whose stories he mentioned, including Bethea???s. ???Their concerns must be our cause.???

However, Bethea???s J.V. Martin Junior High School remains in the same decrepit condition almost one year later, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford would not channel federal stimulus money to construct new schools last year, and the only stimulus money that arrived in Dillon went toward resurfacing the roads. Bethea???s school district???s budget will fall by 15% this year.

The story ran on Tuesday, Jan. 26. That same day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the county???s School Facilities Corporation would receive $35.8 million of stimulus money as a loan, and a $4 million grant ???to improve education services in three school districts in Dillon County.???

Two new schools will be built and two existing schools will be renovated with the funds, according to the USDA. Dillon School District 2 Superintendent Ray Rogers told the AP that about $25 million of the money will go to build a new J.V. Martin Junior High School.

The AP reported some puzzled reactions to the timing of the loan???s approval. Rogers himself was surprised at the timing, thinking that a loan would not be approved for weeks. A spokesperson for the state comptroller thought the loan???s approval might be politically-motivated, considering that it comes right before President Obama???s State of the Union Address.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Bethea???s 112 year-old school had, among other problems, an auditorium with broken windows that had been condemned, and classrooms in mobile trailers. As of Feb. 2009, one-third of the campus was condemned. The town???s six schools are reportedly all in need of repair.

Bethea told the Washington Post that she believed she and her classmates would receive a new school, after she was invited to Washington.

In his remarks about Bethea and her story Obama said:

???And I think about Ty???Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina — a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom.  She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room.  She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp.  The letter asks us for help, and says, ???We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world.  We are not quitters.???

???I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places,??? Obama stated. ???These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here,??? Obama said. ???They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.