The Senate gave third and final reading to the appropriations bill and sent it back to the House for approval. The House will amend the Senate version next week which sets up the budget conference debate for the following week.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
On Tuesday, the House Education and Public Works Committee met to consider the following bill:
H. 3435 (Health Education Reform) The bill would greatly alter the comprehensive health education programs implemented by school districts. It would require reproductive health instruction to be medically accurate, while changing the grade levels at which this instruction would be offered. Under the bill, students must receive 12.5 hours of health education instruction during the ninth or tenth grade, rather than at any time during high school. The State Board of Education would be required to develop a health instruction unit every two years, and districts would be required to use this provided unit if the district does not develop its own health instruction unit annually. Additional changes include the teaching of contraceptive methods in relation to pregnancy and disease prevention, rather than just future family planning. Also, the bill would remove the restriction that male and female students must be taught this information separately. Teachers providing this comprehensive health instruction would need to undergo professional development in either reproductive health or pregnancy prevention every two years, and have a certificate in health education by August 1, 2016. In order to ensure compliance, each district would have to send an annual report to the State Department of Education by June 15.
Rep. Skelton and Rep. Patrick both offered amendments on the bill. The amendment by Rep. Skelton was intended to draw a compromise between competing interests surrounding the issue, while continuing to reinforce the teaching of abstinence as the primary option for birth control and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. The amendment by Rep. Patrick also addressed some of the contentious issues with the bill, ensuring that districts would not be forced to teach health/sexual education classes with male and female students in the same classroom. After much debate, the committee adopted Rep. Patrick’s amendment. The bill received a favorable report.
Bills on the House floor:
H. 3365 (Mental Health Counseling) The bill originally required each public school in South Carolina to employ a licensed school psychologist on a full-time basis. The bill was amended in subcommittee with a strike and insert that establishes a School Safety Task Force that will meet and report their recommendations to the General Assembly no later than December 31, 2013. After some discussion, the committee adopted the subcommittee amendment unanimously. The House adjourned debate.
H. 3383 (Attendance in a Public School District) The bill eliminates the provision allowing a child to qualify for attendance in a school district if he or she has property in the district in his or her name that has an assessed value of three hundred dollars or more. The bill was amended in subcommittee to grandfather in students who currently have property within the district in their name. Currently, in order to attend a school in a district in which he or she doesn’t reside, a student must have property in their name within that district with an assessed value, not a market value of $300 or more – the property tax assessed on the property, not the value of the property itself, would have to be $300 or more. The committee adopted the subcommittee (grandfathering) amendment with a 9-7 vote. The bill was recommitted to Ways and Means.
H. 3061 (Student Athlete Concussions)The bill requires districts to adopt policies and procedures based on guidelines and procedures developed by the State Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), in consultation with the Department of Education, to develop and distribute guidelines and polices to address the risk of concussions sustained by student athletes. The bill also requires student athletes to be removed from play for a suspected concussion and not allow them to return to play until examination by a licensed health care provider. The House concurred with the Senate amendment and the bill has been enrolled for ratification.
On Wednesday, May 29th, the Senate Education committee met and reviewed the following bills:
H.3853 (Alternate Education Campus) The bill outlines the process by which a charter school can be designated as an AEC, as well as the closure of low performing schools. Senator Hayes introduced a technical amendment, which was adopted. The bill was reported out favorable as amended.
H. 3752 (Expanded Virtual Learning Act) This bill removes a cap on the number of online credits a student can receive through the SC Virtual Education program. The bill was given a favorable report.
H.4020 (First Steps Reauthorization) Senator Fair asked the committee to bring the bill up for discussion. While the bill is also included in the budget, Senator Fair expressed concern over a funding lapse if the budget conference becomes gridlocked past the beginning of the fiscal year. The bill was given a favorable report.
Bills on the Senate floor:
S. 516 (Read to Succeed) The bill would create the South Carolina Read to Succeed Office in order to take a comprehensive, systematic approach to student reading performance. It also requires the Department of Education to create a State Reading Proficiency Plan by 2014, which would be accompanied by reading plans created by each of the individual school districts. Districts must identify reading insufficiencies in students prior to the third grade and offer intensive in-class intervention and summer reading camps for such students, which must be conducted by reading interventionists who possess an add-on reading endorsement. In order to earn this endorsement, teachers may be required to take up five courses; administrators would be required to take two courses. Higher education institutions offering a master’s in education program with a focus on literacy would be required to offer such research-based courses, and teachers and administrators would have up to seven years to complete this requirement. Beginning in the 2015-2016 school-year, students may be held back in the third grade if they do not demonstrate proper reading ability, unless exempted for good cause. Training and support would be provided to districts by the Read to Succeed Office. A fiscal impact summary for the bill is pending. No further action this week.