COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — When state lawmakers passed this year’s budget they included a limit on the number of virtual learning students each district could have.
They said up to five percent of a district’s student population can be enrolled in a virtual program without losing state funding. This was in an effort to make sure as many students in South Carolina could attend school for face to face instruction for the 2021-22 school year.
The Proviso reads:
For Fiscal Year 2021-22, school districts shall be permitted to offer a virtual education program for up to five percent of its student population based on the most recent 135 day ADM count without impacting any state funding. The Department of Education shall establish guidelines for the virtual program and parameters students must meet in order to participate in the virtual program. School districts must submit their plans for the virtual program to the State Board of Education for approval.Proviso 1.103 (SDE: Public School Virtual Program Funding)
School districts offering a virtual program must report their ADM counts for students participating in their virtual program and the number of students participating face to face for the 5th, 45th, 90th, and 135th day to the Department of Education.
For every student participating in the virtual program above the five percent threshold, the school district will not receive 47.22% of the State per pupil funding provided to that district as reported in the latest Revenue and Fiscal Affairs revenue per pupil report pursuant to Proviso 1.3. This amount shall be withheld from the EFA portion of the State Aid to Classroom’s district allocation and, if necessary, the state minimum teacher salary schedule portion of State Aid to Classrooms.
According to the South Carolina Department of Education, the 5% virtual learning cap is for full-time virtual students only. A spokesperson said it does not apply to those students, classrooms, or entire schools that may move to virtual instruction temporarily due to COVID-19 reasons (quarantine, isolation, closure).
The South Carolina School Boards Association (SCSBA) released a statement Monday afternoon asking lawmakers to consider repealing this proviso along with the proviso prohibiting school districts from enforcing mask mandates.
SCSBA Executive Director, Scott Price wrote in a statement, “Budget provisos enacted in the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act including the prohibition of mask mandates in schools and severely limiting the numbers of students who can be taught in a virtual environment have impaired local boards and districts at a time when parents are demanding steps be taken to keep students safe. Local boards, along with their superintendents, continue to carefully weigh health and safety information and guidance at the state and federal level as they make decisions for the students and families in their communities.”
The Palmetto State Teachers Association are asking lawmakers and the Governor to either repeal or suspend the mask proviso. Director of Government Affairs Patrick Kelly said face coverings in schools will help slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep students in school.
“We want school districts to have as much autonomy and decision making as possible because they can best respond to the needs of their families and their students,” he said.
As of last week, the state health department is reporting 175 cases of COVID-19 associated with public and private schools.