Alvin Greene, South Carolina Senate candidate, fuzzy on some facts

Alvin Greene, in a weekend speech, made statements that didn't always match up to the facts according to an Associated Press analysis.

Mary Ann Chastain/AP
Alvin Greene, Democratic candidate for the US Senate, waves after making his first public speech during the monthly meeting of the NAACP on July 18, at Manning Junior High School, in Manning, S.C.

In his first campaign speech over the weekend, U.S. Senate candidate Alvin Greene pledged to get South Carolina back to work and decried the state's bottom-of-the-barrel employment and public education rankings.

But an analysis by The Associated Press shows that Greene's claims don't always match up with the facts.

Greene — who won a shocking victory over a former state lawmaker in the June 8 Democratic primary — avoided any major gaffes during his 6 1/2 minute speech Sunday before the local NAACP branch in Manning. Absent also were references to his suggestions that actor Denzel Washington should play him in a movie, or that creating a line of action figures modeled after him could give South Carolinians jobs.

But Greene did talk about the issues, saying the state's employment and education pictures are at their dimmest. Reached at his home in Manning on Monday, Greene said he relied on several sources for information.

"Research, multiple sources, everything, news. All of the above," Greene said, adding that he had help with the speech but refusing to say from whom.

Below, some of Greene's claims and how they match up to reality:

GREENE: There are more people unemployed in South Carolina than ever before.

FACT: While South Carolina's unemployment rate has mirrored a recent rise nationally, the state's employment picture has steadily improved over the past year. The total number of unemployed people in South Carolina peaked in January, when 273,000 people were without jobs, or 12.6 percent. But as of May, that number was down to 238,000, or 11 percent.

The federal government started keeping unemployment statistics in the 1940s, so reliable jobless numbers for the Depression-era are not available. South Carolina's unemployment rate for June is set to be released Tuesday.

GREENE: South Carolina has the highest high school dropout rate and ranks 49th in the country in both overall education and standardized test scores.

FACT: States and research groups use a hodgepodge of methods to calculate graduation rates. While some reports have ranked South Carolina's on-time graduation rate as among the nation's lowest, it mirrors the national average in others.

Under a new national calculation standard, which includes actually tracking students who transfer to different schools, South Carolina's 2009 on-time graduation rate is 74 percent. The state ranks 13th of the 19 states that already use the new federal calculation, which all states must use by 2011.

There is no general ranking of state education systems. Each state sets its own standards and proficiency levels, making state-by-state testing comparisons impossible. The only test taken in every state is the National Assessment of Education Progress, dubbed the "nation's report card." In 2009, the latest results available, South Carolina fourth-graders ranked 38th in the nation in math and 39th in reading. South Carolina eighth-graders ranked 33rd in math and 42nd in reading.

South Carolina does rank 47th in SAT scores. But the College Board, which administers the test, discourages such comparisons because the percentage of students who take the test vary widely state-to-state. Participation ranges from 3 percent to 90 percent; 67 percent of South Carolina seniors took the test in 2009.

GREENE: South Carolina has implemented record cuts in education spending.

FACT: This is true. John Cooley, budget director for the state Education Department, says the magnitude and severity of cuts since 2008 are historic. Even after federal stimulus money is factored in to the 2010-11 budget, districts are expected to receive $700,000 less in state and federal money this school year than in 2007-08.

GREENE: South Carolina spends twice as much per inmate as it does per public school student.

FACT: South Carolina spends more money per inmate that per student, but the number is far from double. In 2009, about $16,300 was spent on each inmate, an amount that includes state and federal taxpayer money, according to the state Department of Corrections.

State budget advisors estimate that $11,372 in state, federal and local taxes will be spent on each student in 2010-11.

GREENE: Greene implies that the Interstate 73 project, which would create a thoroughfare connecting Michigan to South Carolina's popular Myrtle Beach tourist area, is an example of a public works project stalled after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

FACT: While state Transportation Department officials declined to comment on any effect 9-11 may have had on the I-73 corridor, the project has been ongoing since 1982, when Congress passed an appropriations bill requiring the study of a new highway in the area.

Construction hasn't yet begun on the roadway, but officials say the state has already completed environmental impact statements and has already purchased land from some residents on the state's northeastern corner.


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