State senators continue education reform discussions ahead of 2020 session

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- South Carolina lawmakers declared 2019 as the “year of education.” But the General Assembly was unable to pass any legislation related to reforming education in the state.

On Monday, a small group of lawmakers was back at the State House to continue discussions and get a head start for next year’s session.

The goal is to have a comprehensive bill signed into law next session. At this latest Senate Education Committee meeting lawmakers discussed parts of a large bill passed by the House dealing with under performing schools and districts.

The committee took more than 4 hours of testimony from educators and the Department of Education.

“We’ve allowed school districts that have not been doing well we keep sending money and money and have nothing to show for it,” said Superintendent Molly Spearman. Spearman went over areas of the bill the department supports and areas that need additional work.

Several sections in the bill address under performing schools. Right now, the state is working with 570 schools to improve performance. 18 schools have been taken over by the state.

Spearman continued, “We will be adding more schools that need help we’ve increased our support this year from the lowest 5% to the lowest 10% of of schools and those who have 30% of their students not met.”

Teachers at the meeting expressed the need to address mental health in the legislation citing how situations outside of school impact a student’s ability to perform. Ultimately, hurting the school’s report card used to determine the school’s performance.

Patrick Martin, a high school teacher in Mount Pleasant, recalled his own experiences. “I was struggling unhappy and depressed and i stopped doing any work and I failed 7th grade. It took a couple of invested teachers to get me back on track.”

If a school is under performing the state can force a consolidation, charter the district, or take over the district’s management.

This bill calls for the school board to have a a stake holder address achievement gaps, alternative programs and emotional health needs of students.

Superintendent Spearman added if the state has to take over a school it takes about 10 years for the district to get it back and return to its normal operations.

In this year’s budget the General Assembly set aside money for school districts to consolidate. The criteria for that is having less than 1500 students.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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