Lawmakers Hearing Suggestions On Bill

To reform S.C. schools

Patrick Gentry
February 21, 2019 - 10:52 am

South Carolina lawmakers introduced proposed changes Wednesday to their massive education reform bill including the addition of a teacher bill of rights, eliminating a stipulation of imprisonment for school board members who do not complete a mandated training program and striking the option that would allow high-performing school districts to hire up to 25 percent of noncertified teachers, all concerns raised during public hearings.

Members of the House education K-12 subcommittee spent most of their hearing reviewing the proposed changes to the 84-page legislation offered by Chair Raye Felder. The changes come amid several hours of testimony from teachers, administrators, students and teacher advocacy groups like SCforED.

Though no amendments have officially been adopted, Craig King with the Palmetto State Teachers Association said it was encouraging to hear that House and Senate lawmakers are considering their suggestions and proposing adjustments to their prospective bills, but said there is still room for improvement.

"We want a 10 percent pay increase for teachers across the board, so we'll see what happens," King said. "We're slowly watching everything."

Felder said legislators have heard their voices and the amendment is a product of their efforts. Looking at the legislation from the perspective of educators and students gives lawmakers an opportunity to perfect the bill, the Fort Mill lawmaker said.

"We know constant improvement is better than delayed perfection when you're talking (about) our most valuable asset," Felder said. "These young children, they need continuous improvement in their educational opportunities."

At a news conference, Gov. Henry McMaster, state Superintendent Molly Spearman and members of the General Assembly said they intend for the bill to pass this legislative session. Author of the bill, House Speaker Jay Lucas, said education reform is a heavy lifting that involved lawmakers, teachers, students and administrators. Lucas has encouraged public input from the onset, saying it was the only way to improve upon an imperfect legislation, and said the suggested changes will improve the current version of the bill.

"A part of this process is to make people aware of where we are in South Carolina, and in doing that, I think we've started a conversation," the Hartsville lawmaker said. "Sometimes it's not a conversation easy to have, but a conversation we needed to have as a state to see where we're going to go with education in the state of South Carolina."

Lucas said Senate leaders have asked House members to have the bill ready for budget discussions scheduled to begin in about three weeks. The House subcommittee delayed voting on the proposed changes to allow more time to review the revisions.

Lawmakers will reconvene Thursday.

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