Legislative Update – April 1, 2015

It has been a relatively quiet week at the statehouse with the House of Representatives in furlough and the Senate working on a two day week.  There were several bills addressed on the Senate floor though, and the Senate Finance Subcommittee on K-12 Education addressed provisos for their version of the budget. As a reminder, both the House and Senate will be on furlough next week and as such there will not be a legislative update.  You can expect your next legislative on April 17th.

SENATE

On Tuesday the Full Senate addressed the following bills:

S.320 (CPR Bill) requires instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) to all students enrolled in the school district as a requirement for graduation from high school. The bill was amended to specify that instruction on the AED was for knowledge of its operation, not hands on instruction.  This bill received second reading Tuesday, March 31st.

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 third reading on Tuesday, March 31st.

On Wednesday, April 1st, the K-12 Subcommittee addressed the following bills:

S.508 (CDV bill) adds the subject of domestic violence and healthy family relationships to the standards beginning with the 2016-2017 school year. A waiver is available for students who miss this instruction.  This bill was amended to allow the virtual school to offer this instruction as well.  This bill received a favorable report.

H.3849 (FOIA Bill) exempts personally identifiable information in educator  evaluations of public school educators and student teachers from public disclosure under Freedom of Information Act requests. This bill received a favorable report.

On Tuesday, March 21st and Wednesday April 1st, the Senate Finance Subcommittee on K-12 Education addressed budget provisos passed by the House, amending several of them.  Among the notable provisos passed and amended by this subcommittee were the following:

1.3. (SDE: EFA Formula/Base Student Cost Inflation Factor) Increases the base student cost to $2,220, conforming to the availability of funds.

1.68 (SDE: Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children) Defines terms as follows:

‘Eligible School’ means an independent school including those religious in nature, other than a public school, at which the compulsory attendance requirements of 59-65-10 may be met;
(a)  offers general education to primary or secondary school students;
(b)  does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin;
(c)  is located in this State;
(d)  has an educational curriculum that includes courses set forth in the state’s diploma requirements and where the students attending are administered national achievement or state standardized tests, or both, at progressive grade levels to determine student progress;
(e)  has school facilities that are subject to applicable federal, state, and local laws; and
(f)   is a member in good standing of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools, or the South Carolina Independent Schools Association.

‘Exceptional needs child’ means a child (a)
i)     who has been evaluated in accordance with this state’s evaluation criteria, as set forth in S.C. Code Ann. Regs 43-243.1, and determined to be eligible as a child with a disability who needs special education and related services, in accordance with the requirements of section 300.8 of the IDEA; or
ii)    who has been diagnosed within the last three years by a licensed speech-language pathologist, psychiatrist, or medical, mental health psychoeducational, or other comparable licensed healthcare provider as having a neurodevelopmental disorder, a substantial sensory or physical impairment such as deaf, blind or orthopedic disability, or some other disability or acute or chronic condition that significantly impedes the student’s ability to learn and succeed in school without specialized instructional and associated supports and services tailored to the child’s unique needs; and

(b) the child’s parents or legal guardian believes that the services provided by the school district of legal resident do not sufficiently meet the needs of the child

Amends the language on eligible schools and Scholarship Funding Organizations by setting the Education Oversight Committee as the body overseeing schools receiving scholarships;  sets the Department of Revenue as the body overseeing Scholarship Funding Organizations (SFOs); establishes that both SFOs and schools must apply annually to participate in the scholarship program.

In their applications SFOs must provide:
(a) the number and total amount of grants provided to eligible schools in the preceding year;
(b) the identity of the school receiving the grant;
(c) an itemized and detailed account of any fees or other revenues obtained on behalf of any eligible schools;
(d) a copy of the SFO’s 990 or other comparable federal submission that indicates the provisions of the IRS code under which the organizaition has been granted exempt status for the purposes of federal taxation;
(e) a copy of a compilation, review, or audit of the SFO’s financial statements;
(f) criteria and eligibility requirements for receiving a scholarship; and (g) a certification that the SFO meets the definition of a non-profit.

In a school’s application, it must provide:
(a) the number and total amount of grants received from an SFO;
(b) student test scores, by category, on national standardized or state standardized tests;
(c) a copy of a compilation, review, or audit of the school’s financial statements;
(d) a certification by the school that it meets the definition of an eligible school.

1.75. (SDE: Charter School Transition Funds) For Fiscal Year 2014-152015-16, 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 availablein 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 for the charter schools exceeds the school district’s allotment of transition funds, transition funds available, then fundswill be reduced pro rata for all parties.

1.82. (SDE: Transition Funds to Districts) Fund appropriated in Part IA, Section 1, XIV. Aid to School Districts, A. Aid to School Districts, EFA Transition Payments, are to be distributed to school districts eligible to receive transition funds. The funds will be disbursed in an amount equal to the net aggregate decrease in funding realized by a district as a result of changes to the EFA funding formula.

1.89. (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.

1A.39. (SDE-EIA:XII.C.2.Teacher Salaries/SE Average) The projected Southeastern average teacher salary shall be the average of the average teachers’ salaries of the southeastern states as projected by the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office. For the current school year the Southeastern average teacher salary is projected to be$48,892$49,796. The General Assembly remains desirous of raising the average teacher salary in South Carolina through incremental increases over the next few years so as to make such equivalent to the national average teacher salary.

1A.59: EIA funds carry forward from the prior fiscal year 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 – $1,196,407  $1,401,307
4.    Assessment/Testing – $7,300,000
5.    District Technology, Devices and Content – $204,900

1A.64. (SDE-EIA: TransformSC) Of the funds appropriated to the Education Oversight Committee for Partnerships for Innovation, at least $200,000$400,000shall be allocated to the TransformSC public-private project.

1A.70. (SDE-EIA: Interactive Online Music Program RFP) With the funds appropriated for instructional materials, the Department of Education shall work with the Information and Technology Management Office to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP). The purpose of the RFP shall be to seek proposals from qualified private providers to provide an interactive online music program that provides lesson plans, songs, videos, music lessons, on-line virtual world, auto-assessments, and access site license to all elementary schools at an annual cost not to exceed $800,000 and that connects the learning of music with other content areas including reading, mathematics, science and history. The chosen program shall meet state and national standards and include appropriate teacher training.

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