House speaker rolls out state education reform

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By Mark Manicone

Jan. 24 was a big day for South Carolina schools as S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas, along with 18 other lawmakers, introduced the bipartisan South Carolina Career Opportunity and Access for All Act – a massive overhaul of the state’s education system.
“It is time for transformative change in South Carolina’s education system. These bills take a holistic approach to fixing the system that has left us behind,” Lucas said in a statement issued by his office.
“The bills lay out the blueprint to update the outdated student funding formula created over 40 years ago,” said Lucas, whose House District 65 includes part of eastern Lancaster County.
“With Gov. McMaster, the Senate and this body focusing on the much-needed substantive changes, now is the time for big, bold actions in our state. Now is the time to bring the way we educate our students into the 21st century.”
A main focus of the introduced legislation is an increase in teacher pay to address the problem of teachers vacating the profession.
The act will increase base teacher pay to $35,000 a year – up from $32,000 – and increase salaries another 10 percent over two years, according to a report in The Sun News of Myrtle Beach.
It will also allocate more money and resources to classrooms and remove “unnecessary” testing to “free teachers to teach.”
The bill includes new standards for students and school assessments. These measures will also go beyond the K-12 setting to technical colleges and universities.  
Addressing failing school districts via consolidation is also a highlight, which would be accomplished through recommendations from the state superintendent of education.
At the heart of the overhaul is a Student Bill of Rights, which entitles every South Carolina student to qualified teachers and school leadership.
In Gov. Henry McMaster’s State of the State address Jan. 23, he said he would support the efforts of his colleagues to overhaul the S.C. education system.
“Send me these reforms, and I will sign them into law,” the governor said.
McMaster said he supports a 5 percent teacher raise.
You can see the 84-page bill – H3759 – on the statehouse’s website www.scstatehouse.gov under the legislation tab.  

Follow reporter Mark Manicone on Twitter @mark_manicone or contact him at (803) 283-1152.