COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – State Senators overwhelmingly approved the second reading of an education improvement bill by a 41-4 vote on Wednesday.
Leaders say the bill has been on the Senate floor under debate for eight weeks and call the vote important progress in passing a comprehensive education overhaul bill.
“The Senate made education reform its top priority this year and has worked diligently for 8 weeks to craft a bill that provides many important improvements to South Carolina’s public schools,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey.
He went on to say, “I’m hopeful the Senate will give final passage to the bill this week and allow the House of Representatives to continue this important work of supporting our teachers and improving educational opportunities for our students.”
“In my eight years in the Senate, I have never seen this body work harder on any single issue than the work we have done on this education reform effort,” said Greg Hembree, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
Senate Bill 419 still requires a third reading vote by the full Senate before final passage. The current version of the bill includes provisions to do the following:
- Sets policy commitment for educations, known as Educator Fundamentals for Professional Excellence, to provide proper workplace expectations, including:
- Policies to provide faculty by fully respected by school and district officials.’
- Ability for teachers to initiate disciplinary measures of persistently disruptive students;
- Guaranteed 30-minute unencumbered duty-free lunch period for elementary school teachers;
- Additional compensation for work time required above and beyond stated contract days and responsibilities as teachers;
- And be free of excessive and burdensome paperwork related to disciplinary actions, district evaluation procedures, and other administrative inquires that prevent the fulfillment of teachers’ primary directive to implement effective instruction for their students.
- Eliminates three state-mandated tests: social studies in 5th and 7th grades and science in 8th grade.
- Expands 4K to every district in the state for students who are in families under 185% of poverty
- Doubles the reimbursement amount teachers receive for classroom supplies from $275 to $550.
- Requires the Department of Education to pay certification costs for all new public school teachers.
- Offers personal finance elective as requirement for economics course.
- Allows students to retain their eligibility for Palmetto Scholarship for up to two years if attending a technical college.
- Expands Palmetto and Life Enhancement scholarships, an additional $2500 per year, to college students majoring in education
- Mandates School Boards follow code of ethics and school board training.
- Establishes a framework for turning around failing schools and allows for removal of elected school boards in chronically failing districts.
- Provides summer reading camps for students after Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades.
- Protects student data and information collected, to be held personal and confidential with state and federal privacy laws.
- Provides district flexibility for mileage reimbursement for teachers.
- Requires school boards to provide a stream-lined template for student learning objectives (SLO’s) further reducing teacher paperwork.
- Creates a teachers preparation data dashboard to give an easily accessible source of information for teachers related to professional assistance.
- Ensures reading coaches do only the job they were employed to do.
- Adds 5-day scheduling flexibility to do KRA (Kindergarten Readiness Assessment)
- Reauthorizes the National Board Certification program for teachers.
- Requires two-thirds vote by the Board of Education to receive schools of innovation approval.
- Makes structural changes to schools of innovation for consistent statewide compliance with schools of innovation guidelines.
- Mandates local school districts must ensure completion of semester exams prior to a scheduled December break.
“Although the Senate has passed S.419 on second reading, we still have work ahead of us. We still have to give the bill a third reading and work through the differences between the House version and the Senate version,” said Hembree. “When we complete our work on this bill, our work will not stop. The hard work of building an education system that gives every student in South Carolina the opportunity for a world-class education never ends, and we will continue that work, every year.”