Senators working to pass senate version of comprehensive education bill

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South Carolina lawmakers have vowed to reform education in the state.So far, money has been allocated in the House version of the budget to raise teacher salaries and the House passed its version of a large education bill.  The Senate is now trying to pass its own.

A small group of senators met Thursday afternoon to continue discussions on reforming the state’s education, which is the goal of a massive bill filed in both the House and Senate.

The senate education subcommittee looked at a small section of the bill that deals with attracting and retaining teachers. 

Kristi Schrader, a supporter of SCforED, is a former teacher and parent. She expressed what she thinks some of the top issues teachers are facing. 
“If they were paid a little closer to the southeastern average I think we would have a lot more qualified teachers staying in teaching. I also think class sizes need to be reduced. When you have kindergarteners and first graders and class sizes of 25-26, it’s really difficult to reach each child.”  

1 change senators are considering is the amount of non-certified teachers allowed to teach in a school. The original proposal included allowing 25% of teachers at a school in “good academic standing” to not be certified.

Senator Scott Talley is concerned the proposal is not a one size fits all solution. “There maybe areas of the state and maybe school districts that need to fill certain positions where this category of non-certified teachers really work and fits. And I don’t know that we want to limit them based on their rating.” 

When it comes to attracting new teachers the senators are looking at streamlining the alternative certification process. Right now professionals can become teachers through a program that gives them the necessary training to teach specialized classes. 

“We don’t want to break anything that is having success and is working, but our goal is to make it easier to get qualified teachers so the kids can get taught,” said Senator Greg Hembree. 

But keeping teachers in the classrooms seems to be the hardest part to address.

Senator Hembree has participated in town hall meetings across the state hearing concerns of teachers and parents. He said the concerns members have been hearing express the same ideas. Teachers want less testing, less bureaucracy, and more support in the classroom.

Hembree added, “Not getting that kind of support to remove that one that student disrupting the teaching of the rest of the students. That’s a very hard one to address, but it’s important because it’s consistent. And teacher pay but of course we knew that.”

Senator Hembree is proposing a 10% raise over 3 years with 5% rolling out the first year. 

The bill is expected to move to the full committee in April.  The full committee will then have the bill for at least 3 weeks. 

On Monday the senators will be in Gaffney holding a meeting to speak with teachers and parents. 

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