Legislative Update – February 6, 2015

This week Superintendent Spearman and SC Department of Education staff spoke at SCASA’s Superintendents’ Roundtable.  Topics included the new teacher evaluation standards and increasing the base student cost to $2,220 up from $2,020. South Carolina Department of Education staff provided more specifics on Superintendent Spearman’s proposed budget.  The House is scheduled to take up the Budget beginning on March 10th. Finally, Department of Education staff also addressed particular pieces of legislation they are following and discussed a new grant framework issued by the federal government.  According to new federal guidelines, when schools or districts receive a federal grant, their state’s Department of Education are considered the grant recipient and will be responsible for flow-through to the recipient districts or schools.  The department emphasized that this federal change means districts must maintain sufficient evaluations of their grant activities and funds; otherwise the US Department of Education could limit or terminate specific grants.

Finally, the Superintendents’ Roundtable heard from the Chairman of the Education and Public Works Committee, the Honorable Rita Allison.  Mrs. Allison is the first female chairman of a major standing committee in almost 12 years and is also the first female chairman of the Education and Public Works Committee. As such, this was Mrs. Allison’s first time addressing the Superintendents’ Roundtable.  In her presentation she reiterated her commitment to public education in South Carolina and discussed several she saw as fundamental to education reform including early childhood education, teacher development, and community involvement.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

On Tuesday, February 3rd, Superintendent Spearman presented the SC Department of Education’s Budget Proposal to the Ways and Means Public Education and Special Schools Subcommittee:

Highlights of Superintendent Spearman’s Budget include the following proposed increases from FY2014-2015:

Base Student Cost for 2015-2016: $2,220

Adult Education: $5,000,000

Assessment/Testing: $7,300,000

Bus Purchases: $34,000,000

Educator Evaluation System: $3,000,000

Modernize Vocational Equipment: $4,000,000

Reading Coach Expansion: $9,922,555

Summer Reading Camps: $3,000,000

 

Note that Instructional Materials are being placed on a single line for a total request of $73,952,095

As a reminder, this is an initial budget proposal.  The House version of the budget will be debated on the floor beginning March 10, 2015.

On, Wednesday, February 4th, the K-12 Education Subcommittee addressed four bills:

H.3092 (Superintendents’ Severance Pay) went before the K12 subcommittee on February 4th.  This bill requires that a Superintendent’s severance package cannot be greater than the total annual value of the Superintendent’s contract.  SCASA testified that a Superintendent’s contract was a contract between the district’s board and the Superintendent and as such reflected the will of the board and the community that elected that board.  Given this, SCASA stated that it believed decisions over Superintendent pay and severance issues should remain local decisions.  The subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill.

H.3044 (Instruction days to hours) went before the K12 Subcommittee on Wednesday, February 4th.   This bill revises the requirement for 180 instructional days, allowing the same time period to be allotted in terms of minutes, and gives school districts flexibility in determining how to meet those time requirements as well as flexibility in determining how to make up snow days using additional minutes.  The Department of Education has expressed some concern over these changes due to references in current statutes which reference days, as well as questions over how to implement the changes. The committee gave a favorable report to the bill while also noting that amendments will be offered in the full House Education and Public Works committee detailing that the conversion from days to hours is for instructional purposes only.

H.3221 (Veterans’ Day) requires that school districts recognize Veterans Day as a holiday.  SCASA and the Department of Education worked with the bill’s sponsor to explain that state law already requires that schools provide instruction on the role of veterans, the US Constitution, and Declaration of Independence for at least one hour on Veteran’s day.   If schools are closed on Veterans’ Day then the instruction must be provided the next school day.  In addition, schools must permit students to attend activities to commemorate and honor veterans that are held at locations within their respective counties. Additionally, should a parent remove their child on Veterans’ Day (November 11th) to attend an event honoring veterans, attendance at such activities must count as a part of the instructional day.  The bill’s sponsor agreed to adjourn debate on the bill with the understanding that SCASA would provide this information to its members.

H.3432 (MLK and Memorial Day) requires that schools treat Martin Luther King Day and Memorial Day as holidays.  This bill went before the K12 Subcommittee on February 4th and received a favorable report.  Amendments are expected which will prohibit these days from being used as make up days.

On Thursday, February 5th, the full House addressed the following items:

S.364 (Read to Succeed) was placed on the House calendar for first reading (without reference to a House committee) on Tuesday, February 3rd.  As a reminder this is the Senate version of the Read to Succeed bill and extends the deadline for approving the state’s reading proficiency plan from February 1, 2015 to June 15, 2015.  It was given second reading on Wednesday, February 4th and on Thursday, February 5th, the House gave third reading.  This joint resolution will now head to Governor Haley’s desk for signature which is expected next week.

H.3041 (Appointment of Superintendent) went before the House of Representatives for second reading on February 5th.  This bill removes the Superintendent of Education from the list of elected state offices and places the position within the Governor’s cabinet.  The house adjourned debate on the bill until February 10th.

SENATE

The Senate had no meetings this week pertaining to K-12 Education.

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