Lawmakers continue to mull over massive education bill

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- Lawmakers designated this year as the year for education. And earlier this year both the House and Senate filed a comprehensive bill more than 80 pages long they believe will reform education in the state.

The lawmakers have been discussing the state’s education system since January and so far only the House has passed legislation to address issues in classrooms across the state.

But Wednesday, members of the Senate moved forward with legislation after months of discussion and public hearings.

The bill made up of dozens of subsections addresses area like teacher responsibilities, accountability for failing schools and standardized testing. Many educators, parents and lawmakers have expressed concern that students spend too much time taking mandated exams.

“We do have a standardized testing problem. we have obsessed over standardized testing in the state even before federal government requirements,” said Senator Vincent Sheheen, who serves on the Senate Education Committee.

Even though progress on the bill has been made, many educators say their input isn’t reflected in the bill and the proposal doesn’t address problems seen in the classrooms. One problem teachers have rallied around is decreasing classroom sizes.

“Oversized classrooms means less relationships with kids. And not only does that not make a kid feel safe but what other areas of need are we not addressing with the students,” added Nicole Walker with SCforED.

SCforED started on Facebook as a network group for teachers and has since grown to more than 20,000 members since lawmakers started discussing education reform.

Supporters of the bill are optimistic the bill will serve as a starting point to reform education. State Superintendent Molly Spearman explained how the proposal will help the state address under-performing schools.

“It also helps us with the schools that are not performing very well; how do we offer interventions and resources to these low performing schools and districts.”

The full education committee met Wednesday and took up both the House and Senate versions of the bill and went over changes made to the proposals.

Senator Greg Hembree, the committee chair, went over a change made to qualifications for state sponsored scholarships.

“We adjusted the cumulative grade point that’s required at the end of the freshman year slightly from a 3.0 to a 2.8 to give them a little more cushion to help them keep their scholarships.”

The committee’s approval is the next step if either bill has a chance of passing in the upcoming legislative session.

Hembree continued, “Time is our enemy in this effort to get kids educated in a way so they can be happy successful fulfilled adults.”

Teacher salary is also a big part of the education conversation. In the 2019-2020 school year teachers received a 4% raise. Superintendent Spearman says she’s pushing for a 5% raise for the 2020-2021 school year.

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