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South Carolina's Supreme Court ordered Gov. Mark Sanford on Thursday to request $700 million in federal stimulus money aimed primarily at struggling schools, ending months of wrangling with legislators who accused him of playing politics with people's lives.


The nation's most vocal anti-bailout governor had refused to take the money designated for the state over the next two years, facing down protesters and legislators who passed a budget requiring him to. While other Republican governors had taken issue with requesting money from the $787 billion federal stimulus package, Sanford was the first to defend in court his desire to reject the money.

But he said Thursday he will not appeal the Supreme Court ruling and plans to sign paperwork to request the money Monday.

Educators quickly hailed the court decision. They had predicted hundreds of teachers would lose jobs and colleges would see steep tuition increases without the money, though sharp budget cuts will still take a toll.

"Finally. It took way too long. It was so unnecessary and took so long to do what 49 other states figured out how to do a long time ago, but finally is better than not at all. It will allow districts to immediately begin to reconstitute programs and fill positions they didn't think they could fill," state Education Superintendent Jim Rex said.

While Sanford raised the issue, it was Casey Edwards, a Chapin High School student graduating Friday, who brought it to the state's highest court. She beamed as she told reporters she "was very excited that our schools and our teachers and our education system will be getting the funds that are so desperately needed here in South Carolina."


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