State senators working to move forward on education bill

State senators working to move forward on education bill
State senators hope to have their version of the new education bill ready by the time lawmakers return to the capitol in January. (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A panel of state senators wrapped up tweaks to their version of a new state education bill, moving the state one step closer to changing education.

The Senate Education Subcommittee spend the past few months working on their version of the bill. The House passed their version of the bill back in March.

Goals of the new legislation, when it is eventually enacted, could include fewer standardized tests, more ways to hold failing school districts accountable and 30 minutes of duty-free time for some teachers.

Richland School District Two high school teacher Keely Hitchings says there are some things she likes about the education reform bill lawmakers are mulling over but there are some things that concern her and other members in the SC for Ed group.

“I’m just concerned that we’ll pat ourselves on the back in South Carolina and say we passed some reform and nothing is really going to change,” she said.

The full Senate Education Committee took up the bill Wednesday. They hope to send it to the Senate floor before January. The bill has been amended over the last few months.

“Every day we are losing ground,” Sen. Greg Hembree said. “We don’t have time to put it off. There are human beings going to be affected if we fail to act.”

Some educators believe this bill alone won't make too much of a difference.

“If we want to move the needle on teacher recruitment and student achievement the baseline is we need to fully meet our obligation to fund our schools,” Richland School District Two teacher Patrick Kelly said. “From there we can enact a lot of the reforms being discussed in the General Assembly.”

As lawmakers continue to work on the bill, State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman says she’s hopeful it will be signed into law next year. She also says teachers can expect to see a raise next year.

“I’ve asked for a 5% increase. We’ll see how that money will be distributed,” Spearman said. “All the legislators I’ve spoken with say they are very focused. We have to do something to raise salaries. More than we did last year.”

Hitchings says parts of the bill need to be removed before its signed into law.

“I do think if we were motivated to quickly come up with smaller bills that address these issues, that they could make that happen,” she said.

Hembree says he hopes to meet at least two more times and send the bill to the senate floor before lawmakers reconvene in January.

Senators could meet as soon as next Tuesday

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