Lawmakers Propose Education Measures

HOUSE MEMBERS INTRODUCE ASSORTMENT OF K-12 EDUCATION BILLS. FRESH THINKING SEEMS TO BE IN SHORT SUPPLY.

Education reform hasn’t gotten much attention this year, except for the routine dire prophecies that increasing money to core services – this year it was roads – would somehow “take money from education.” In fact, though, House lawmakers have filed a number of education bills, most of which are likely in response to the Abbeville decision (more on that decision here).

Here are a few, together with their status:

Companion bills H.4774 and S.1038 would reauthorize the First Steps to School Readiness program, which provides funding to and oversight of various early education programs in South Carolina, until July 1, 2021, and would ensure that the program is automatically reauthorized every five years thereafter. The First Steps program is one of several early education programs that have slowly and significantly expanded over the course of decades, to little if any positive effect.

Status: in committee

H.4776 would create the South Carolina Education Facility Authority (SCEFA), governed by a nine-member board to provide additional funding for school buildings across the state. The SCEFA would have bonding authority.

Status: in committee

 

H.4937 creates a South Carolina Education and Economic Development Coordinating Council. This would be a 27-member board that would advise and report on the implementation of the SC Education and Economic Development Act, which mandates that career awareness and exploration be incorporated into the public school curricula from the first grade, culminating in personalized graduation plans depending on the student’s career interests.

Status: passed the House, now in Senate committee

 

H.4938 would mandate that college students be surveyed on whether they have ever considered teaching in a rural or economically challenged district, and what incentives would persuade them to do it.

Status: passed the House, now in Senate committee

 

 H.4939 creates a committee for reviewing Title 59 of the law code and reporting to the General Assembly anything that is obsolete. This bill also instructs the Department of Education (DOE) to develop a system for providing services and assistance to school districts, and to monitor and evaluate operations and staff in underperforming schools and suggest improvements to the school districts.

Status: passed the House, now in Senate committee

 

H.4940 creates the Office of Transformation within the DOE to address poor school district performance. This translates into providing support and service to districts and schools across the state, including on-site coaches to work with school leadership, assistance in data analysis and intervention plan development, and diagnostic reviews.

Status: Passed House 95-1, now in Senate committee

 

H.4941 requires the DOE to set up a statewide program for addressing financially insolvent or challenged school districts. The plan would involve three escalating levels of financial concern, with interventions for each one. The interventions range from requiring the school district to submit a financial recovery plan to the DOE, to assuming emergency management of the district.

Status: Passed house 92-0, now in Senate committee

Each of these bills proposes to improve the state’s education system with what can accurately be called status quo solutions. The truth is, South Carolina’s schools don’t need more programs or added layers of bureaucracy, and by any reasonable criterion they don’t need more money.  They need more choice and greater accountability. Everything else has been tried, and has failed.

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