Legislative Update – March 13, 2015

It has been a busy week at the statehouse.  On Monday, March 9th, the Education Oversight Committee gave final approval to the new ELA and Math standards.  The standards were approved on second reading in the State Board on Wednesday, March 11th.

The House gave second reading to the H.3701 (2015-16 General Appropriations Bill) and H.3702 (Capital Reserves) late Thursday evening.  The House adopted a general fund authorization of $6.9 billion plus $122 million in capital reserves. However the House voted down a $497 million bond bill which included $50 million for capital projects in the plaintiff districts. Third reading for these bills is set for Tuesday, March 17th.

In funding K-12 Education, the primary objective of the House was increasing the base student cost which is $2,220 in the House version of the budget.

Notable expenditures are as follows:

o   Instructional Materials: $20.9 million
–  Note that all instructional materials are on one line
o   Bus Shops: $107 million
o   Funding for purchase and operation of Buses: $21.7 million
o   Teacher Certification: $1.7 million
o   National Board Certification: $55,500
o    Integrated Teacher Certification and Compensation System: $1.6 million
o   Professional Development: $10.4 million;
–  $4 million of which goes toward Technology Professional development
o   Summer Reading Camps: $7.5 million;
–  $1.5 million of which goes towards students at risk of failure
o   Reading Coaches: $34.5 million;
–  $5 million of which goes towards students at risk of failure

As a reminder, this is not the final version of the budget. The budget will now move to the Senate where the process will begin all over again.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Along with a number of technical corrections, the following amendments to the budget were approved:

Amend Proviso 1.75. (SDE: Charter School Transition Funds) to read: For Fiscal Year 2015-16, charter schools sponsored by a local school district and located in a district receiving transition funds must receive transition funds from the local district or statewide transition funds available in an amount equal to any reduction in funds received by the school due to the changes in the Education Finance Act formula. If the amount of transition funds available, then funds for the charter schools exceeds the school district’s allotment of transition funds, transition funds will be reduced pro rata for all parties.

Amend Proviso 1A.59. (SDE-EIA: Carry Forward) to read: For Fiscal Year 2015-16, EIA funds carry forward from the prior fiscal year and not otherwise appropriated or authorized must be carried forward and expended on the following items:
1. EOC – Partnerships for Innovation – $900,000;
2. Allendale County School District – $150,000;
3. Modernize Vocational Equipment – $1,501,307;
4. Assessment/Testing – $7,300,000; and
5. District Technology, Devices and Content – $204,900

Amendment No. 37:
(SDE: Transition Funds to Districts) For the current fiscal year, the department must transfer any unexpended funds appropriated for EFA Transition to the EFA for disbursement to districts per the formula.

Amendment No. 38:
(SDE: Digital Instructional Materials) The Department of Education shall create an instructional materials list composed of those items (print and/or digital) that have received State Board of Education approval through the normal adoption process. The department shall continue to work with the publishers of instructional materials to ensure that districts who wish to receive both the digital version and class sets of textbooks may be awarded that option. Funds appropriated for the purchase of textbooks and other instructional materials may be used for reimbursing school districts to offset the costs of refurbishing science kits on the state-adopted textbook inventory, purchasing new kits from the central textbook depository, or a combination of refurbishment and purchase. The refurbishing cost of kits may not exceed the cost of the state-adopted refurbishing kits plus a reasonable amount for shipping and handling. Costs for staff development, personnel costs, equipment, or other costs associated with refurbishing kits on state inventory are not allowable costs. Funds provided for Instructional Materials may be carried forward from the prior fiscal year into the current fiscal year to be expended for the same purposes by the department, school districts, and special schools. These funds are not subject to flexibility. Digital Instructional Materials shall include the digital equivalent of materials and devices.

Amendment No. 39:
(SDE: Teacher Certification Exemption) For the current fiscal year, a teacher certified at the secondary level may teach such courses at the middle grades level without having the add on certification for middle-level education. Districts must report to the Department of Education and the Center for Educator Recruitment Retention and Advancement on the teachers and courses that utilize this exemption./

Amendment No. 40:
(SDE: Teacher and Principal Evaluation Exemption) To promote candid feedback for continuous improvement of teaching and learning, for the current fiscal year, records relating to educator evaluation that include personally identifiable information are exempt from disclosure under Chapter 4 of Title 30 of the 1976 Code (FOIA).

Amendment No. 45:
(SDE: Rural Teacher Recruiting Incentive) (A) There is created a program within the South Carolina Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA) to recruit and retain classroom educators in rural and underserved districts experiencing excessive turnover of classroom teachers on an annual basis.

SENATE
On Wednesday, March 11
th, the Full Education Committee addressed the following items:


Doc. No. 4476 – Defined Program 6-8
Regulation 43-232 establishes that each school district board of trustees shall ensure quality schooling by providing a rigorous, relevant curriculum for all students. Each school district shall examine the academic achievement standards adopted by the South Carolina State Board of Education. Elementary, middle, and high school faculty and staff shall work together to ensure that students are prepared to achieve these standards. When approved by the principal and the parents, a student promoted to the seventh or eighth grade may take units of ninth grade or higher work for school credit. The amendment will narrow the language to ensure high school credit given in the middle school level must be high school–level courses that have been approved by the South Carolina Department of Education. This regulation received a favorable report.

Doc. No. 4477 – Defined Program, Grades 9-12 and Graduation Requirements
Regulation 43-234 establishes that each school board of trustees must ensure quality schooling by providing a rigorous, relevant curriculum for all students. The regulation also stipulates that each school district must offer a standards-based academic curriculum organized around a career cluster system that provides students with individualized education choices. The regulation also defines the graduation requirements for the state. An amendment will remove the language referring to the exit examination as required for high school graduation. Another amendment will delete the recommended course section due to ever-changing recommendations. This regulation received a favorable report.

Doc. No. 4478 – Requirements for Additional Areas of Certification
Regulation 43-62 governs the requirements for add-on certification for educators in South Carolina. Amendments to Regulation 43-62 will (1) clearly define the terms add-on certification and endorsement and (2) remove specific requirements for add-on areas and endorsements from the regulation. The specific requirements for add-on areas and endorsements will then be promulgated in guidelines to be approved by the State Board of Education. These changes allow the Board to continue to provide appropriately qualified educators for South Carolina public schools and to address needed changes in educator training and preparation more readily. This regulation received a favorable report.

Doc. No. 4491 – Adult Education
Regulation 43-259 – The State Board of Education is responsible for the administration, coordination, and management of adult basic and adult secondary (high school equivalency diploma and high school diploma) education for the purpose of facilitating and coordinating adult basic and adult secondary (high school equivalency diploma and high school diploma) education programs for South Carolina adults whose level of educational attainment is below high school, as prescribed by state and federal laws and regulations. (Removes reference to the exit exam). This regulation received a favorable report.

Doc. No. 4494 – Procedures and Standards for Review of Charter School Applications
Regulation 43-601 governs the procedures and standards for review of charter school applications. The proposed amendments would align Regulation 43-601 to (1) recent changes to the South Carolina Charter Schools Act of 1996 and (2) the guidance and compliance provided to both sponsors and applicants by the South Carolina Department within the South Carolina Public Charter School Application Guidance. This regulation received a favorable report.

Doc. No. 4495 – Program for Assisting, Developing, and Evaluating Principal Performance
Regulation 43-165.1 defines the performance standards and criteria for assisting, developing, and evaluating principals in South Carolina. Regulation 43-165.1 also defines the rating scale for determining levels of effectiveness regarding a principal’s performance. The amendments will change the rating levels to specify that a satisfactory rating will be identified as “Proficient” or higher and an additional standard will be added to the present standards. The additional standard will be a Student Growth standard which will comprise a portion of the principal’s overall evaluation as specified in the guidelines approved by the State Board of Education. This regulation received a favorable report.

S.320 (CPR Bill) requires instruction in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and the use of an Automated External Defibrillator beginning with the freshmen class of 2016-2017. Waivers are available should a parent opt out, or if the student is on an IEP. This bill received a favorable report.

S.437 (Civics Education Initiative) requires that students take the United States Civics Citizenship Test as part of their ½ credit Government class. Directs districts to award a certificate to students making a 60 or higher and to report the scores to the Education Oversight Committee for reporting on the District Report card.  Provides waivers for students on IEPs.  This bill received a favorable report.

On Thursday, March 12th, the Senate K-12 Subcommittee addressed the following items:

Document Number: 4529 – Assessment Program
The State Board of Education (SBE) proposes to amend Regulation 43-262. This regulation delineates requirements for assessment programs managed by the Office of Assessment. Amendments are being proposed to merge language from Regulations 43-260 and 43-262.4 into this regulation so that regulations governing assessments are in one regulation. Duplicative language resulting from merging the three regulations is deleted. In compliance with Section 59-18-310 of Act 155 that states that “students are no longer required to meet the exit examination requirements to earn a South Carolina high school diploma,” references to passing an exit examination as a condition for receiving a South Carolina high school diploma have been deleted. This regulation was returned to make changes conforming to the Education Accountability Act.

Document Number: 4530 – End-of-Course Tests
The State Board of Education (SBE) proposes to repeal Regulation 43-262.4, End-of-Course Tests. The requirements of this regulation are to be merged with Regulation 43-262, Assessment Program. This regulation was returned to make changes conforming to the Education Accountability Act.

Document Number: 4532 – Use and Dissemination of Test Results
The State Board of Education (SBE) proposes to repeal Regulation 43-260, Use and Dissemination of Test Results. The requirements of this regulation are to be merged with Regulation 43-262, Assessment Program. This regulation was returned to make changes conforming to the Education Accountability Act.

Document Number: 4531 – Test Security
The State Board of Education (SBE) proposes to amend Regulation 43-100. Test Security. This regulation defines test security violations. This regulation was returned to make changes conforming to the Education Accountability Act.

S.533 (Teacher Employment and Dismissal) amends the “Teacher Employment and Dismissal Act of 2015” so as to change the deadline to before May 1 for issuing teacher contracts.  It also amends sections relating to notices of dismissal and conduct of related hearings, so as to provide that the board may utilize a designee who must be a lawyer admitted to the South Carolina Bar and certified as a Mediator in South Carolina.  It provides that this designee serves on behalf of the board with duties of evidence gathering and determination of admissibility of specific testimony in accordance with the law.  The final determination in termination is still up to the board.  This bill also amends sections relating to the scheduling of teacher dismissal hearings to extend the period for scheduling a hearing to forty-five (45) days, and to provide that hearings are quasi-judicial, and to permit the use of hearsay evidence in certain circumstances.  Also amends the statute to reflect that appeals from the board will go to the administrative law court. This bill received a favorable report

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