According to The Beaufort Gazette, Republican SC House District 124 candidate and daycare owner Shannon Erickson is "big on accountability and transparency personally and in business -- right down to diapers. 'I'm an open book,'" she said.
The Truth Squad is also big on transparency and accountability. So we wanted to read that open book. Ms. Erickson is the owner of three Hobbit Hill daycare centers in Beaufort County. According to her election website, she believes in "a pro-business, pro-family, responsible growth agenda and government that is responsive to the people it serves." Presumably that would mean, if she took a contract from the state of South Carolina to provide a service, she would make sure that she provided that service in a responsible way. But does she?
As a result of the "Corridor of Shame" lawsuit, the General Assembly rolled out a pilot preschool program to serve the eight poorest school districts. Those were Allendale, Dillon 2, Florence 4, Hampton 2, Jasper, Lee, Marion 7 and Orangeburg 3. (After that, if there was any money left, the other 29 plaintiff school districts could start programs.) The law said that eligible families had to live in one of those districts. It gave public schools and privately owned centers (like Erickson's) $3077 for 180 six-hour school days. It also handed out $10,000 "materials" grants for those centers or schools to buy crayons, diapers and kleenex. A lot of crayons, diapers and kleenex, apparently. This year, the General Assembly upped the ante to $3931 and stuffed another $2500 for "materials" into the pockets of returning schools and daycare centers. Newly added programs can still get the original $10,000 crayon grant.
(Sorry about all the boring detail, but this is an open book, appendices and all.)
One of the centers that was approved to have both a preschool program and a crayon grant was Hobbit Hill, owned by the aforementioned "accountability and transparency" candidate for district #124. So how many children were in her program?
That's right, one kid. Probably colored his little heart out at our expense. According to the Education Oversight Committee report on the program, Ms. Erickson's "per student cost" was $9,385. Apparently, even she couldn't buy enough crayons to suck up the whole ten thousand buckaroos. While Hobbit Hill was only the third highest per-student-cost daycare center (behind one in North Augusta and a now defunct one in East Hampton), the other owners are not, as far as we can tell, running for public office on a platform of accountability and transparency. And the state average per child cost was $3,896, so she's clearly making a ton of money from the taxpayers.
The Truth Squad is willing to bet that, if Beaufort county voters send Shannon Erickson to the State House, she'll never vote against government handouts to businesses like hers. Because eventually, she'll have to buy more crayons. At least she'll fit right in with the rest of the General Assembly, tossing dollar bills into the air, and stuffing as many as possible into their own pockets.