COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Thousands of teachers rallied at the State House Wednesday. Some experts called it unprecedented and historic.
The Governor and other lawmakers say they are committed to making a change. Everyone agrees something needs to be done.
Some believe it should be handled in different ways.
We sat down with Derek Black, a professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of Law, his area of expertise includes education law and policy.
He said the massive education reform bill that is sitting in the Senate right now might do more harm than good if it passes as is. “What I’ve said before is that you can’t put the cart before the horse.”
Many teachers and some lawmakers including, Senator Mike Fanning (D-Fairfield), have said the bill needs to be scrapped. Black agrees. “We’ve got a piece of legislation that moves forward imposing new and costly requirements without providing funding for our current requirements.”
He said funding needs to be figured out before a bill of this magnitude can move forward. “You cannot start putting standards in place without knowing what they cost. Particularly, when we know right now, the Department of Education’s own report says we’re on average underfunded by $2600 per student.
Lawmakers have made changes to help improve working conditions for teachers this session. The budget plan includes an increase in teacher pay, money for mental health counselors and school resource officers, extra money set aside to improve areas in poor rural school districts and removes some testing. Governor Henry McMaster said all this paired with the education reform bill will help South Carolina make major leaps forward in improving education.
The Governor said he’d like to sign the bill into law by the end of the year. He’s even suggested holding a special session so everything can be figured out as soon as possible and continue working into 2020 and 2021.
One issue that hasn’t been addressed is class sizes. Since the recession, proposals have been added to the budget that waives class size limits. Representative Rita Allison (R-Spartanburg) is the House Education Committee Chairwoman. She said she’s happy teachers are making their voices heard and understands their concerns.
Rep. Allison said making sure we can retain teachers is important. She explained why the proposal has been added to the budget every year. “If school districts can’t fill those slots, they won’t be following the law. So we have to work on that.”
Black said it’s difficult to keep teachers in the classroom, especially when class size is one of the biggest complaints.
“We’re really in a bad spot right now when it comes to having enough teachers to fill the classroom.”
There are four working days left in the session.