Legislative Update – April 24, 2015

It was a busy week at the statehouse this week with both the Senate and House Education Committees meeting and the Senate Finance Committee developing next year’s budget including giving a favorable report to a $236.7 million bond bill.  Most notably for K-12 Education, the Senate, concurring with the House, is increasing the base student cost (BSC) to $2,220.  In addition to formal committee work, the Senate’s Special Subcommittee on President Pro Tempore Response to Abbeville Case met this week.  The subcommittee received testimony from Superintendent Spearman.  The discussion which followed revolved around a number of topics including the state’s role in providing education, issues of equitable access and how education in South Carolina is funded.

Of special note this week, the Senate Education Committee heard S.629 (Snow Days) which allows a local school board to waive up to three days missed due to inclement weather provided that the three days district-designated as make-up days have been used or are not available.  The State Board of Education may waive up to an additional three days beyond those waived by the local school board. Such a waiver may only be granted upon the majority ascent of, and request by, the local school board to the State Board of Education.  This bill received a favorable report. This bill is similar to H.3890 (see below).

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

On Tuesday, April 21
st, the House addressed the following items:

H.3890 (Snow Days) provides that a local school board may waive up to three days missed due to inclement weather.  Further, it provides that the state board may waive three days beyond the three waived by the local board.  Finally, it provides that inclement weather days missed when the Governor declares a state of emergency are automatically waived.  This billed received third reading and now moves to the Senate for consideration.  This bill is similar to S.629.

H.3359 (Civics Bill) requires that beginning with freshmen entering in the 2016-2017 academic year, all students must take the US Citizenship Exam as part of their ½ credit American Government class.  This provision does not apply to students who are exempted in accordance with an individualized education plan (IEP).  This bill was amended to conform with Senate version – removes requirements for Civics testing in GED programs and states that students making a passing grade (as opposed to mandating a grade over 60) may receive a certificate from the district.  Additionally it was amended to state that students are only required to take this exam if there is no cost to the district or school for obtaining or administering the test, and to provide that a district or school may not collect any fees or charges associated with providing the test.  This bill received third reading and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

On Wednesday, April 22nd, the Education and Public Works Committee met to address the following items:

H.3560 (Teacher Dismissal) provides that a school board may designate a hearing officer who is an attorney and licensed as a mediator or arbitrator to conduct a dismissal hearing and issue a report with recommendations.  It also provides that a notice of dismissal must be given by the superintendent or his designee instead of the school board, and changes the appellate body from the circuit court to the administrative law court.  Additionally it moves the deadline by which a teacher must receive their contract to may 1. This bill received a unanimous favorable report.

H. 3512 (Merry Christmas) allows a school to provide instruction on traditional winter holidays and provides that a school district may display certain symbols associated with these holidays.  This bill received a favorable report from the committee with dissenting members noting their objections in the committee report.

S. 154 (Interscholastic Eligibility) provides that the State Board of Education may grant a waiver of a student’s ineligibility to participate in interscholastic activities if the absence was due to a long-term absence as a result of a medical condition but the student has been medically cleared to participate.  Also allows a waiver for any other reasonable circumstance as determined by the State Board. This bill received a favorable report.

On Wednesday, April 22nd, the House Judiciary Committee addressed the following bill related to K-12 Education:

H.3882 (Bus Driver Physicals) amends current requirements for Bus Driver Physicals to provide that school bus drivers shall have a physical examination that meets the requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations certified by a medical examiner.  The definition of medical examiner was amended to included chiropractors, bringing the state certification requirement in line with federal statutes.  This bill received a favorable report.

On Wednesday, April 22nd, the House considered the following items:

H.3353 (GED Camps Joint Resolution) establishes a two-year pilot program to facilitate the use of GED camps to help people obtain their GED Certificate.  The bill was amended to state that the SC Department of Education shall advise and assist on these camps.  This bill received third reading and now moved to the Senate for consideration.

Finally, on Thursday, April 23rd, the full House addressed the following items:

H.3877 (Snow Days Joint Resolution for 2014-2015) is the annual fix to address days missed due to inclement weather for the 2014-2015 academic year. It provides that the governing body of a school district may waive the requirement that schools make up full days missed due to inclement weather for three or fewer full school days that students who attend schools or charter schools in the district missed due to inclement weather during the 2014-2015 school year; provided, however, that a district may not waive this requirement until it has exhausted all statutorily required make-up days remaining on the 2014-2015 school calendar.   Senate amendments to this Joint Resolution required that schools make up three days prior to any waivers being granted.  The question before the House was whether or not to concur with the Senate amendment.  The house voted unanimously not to concur with the Senate amendment meaning this Joint Resolution now goes back to the Senate where they can concur with the house version or go to conference committee.

SENATE

On Wednesday, April 22
nd, the Senate Education Committee met to address the following items:

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 was carried over.

S.508 (CDV in Health Education) amends the Health Education standards to add the subject of Domestic Violence and healthy family relationships beginning with the 2016-2017 school year.  This bill was carried over and then referred back to the Senate K-12 Subcommittee.

Also on Wednesday, April 22nd, the Senate Finance Committee approved its version of the budget:

H.3701 (General Fund) was approved.  Highlights from the Senate’s version of the budget include the following:
The base student cost (BSC) is increased to $2,220

  • $19.5 million for instructional material ($5 more than approved by the House)
  • $9 million for Bus Shops
  • $1 million on the line for Reach out and Read
  • $1.5 million to develop the Rural Teacher Recruitment Initiative through CERRA

The K-12 budget as passed by the House remains in tact with the exception of the $5 million increase to instructional materials noted above and some additional technical changes.

H.3702 (Capital Reserve) represents funds used to pay for capital projects. Highlights from the Capital Reserve budget include:

  • $17 million for school bus purchases
  • $1.6 million for the Integrated Teacher Certification and Compensation System

Additionally, H.3702 was amended to include a $236.7 million bond bill which will go to pay for upgrades to the state’s institutions of higher education and armories.

Please note that this is NOT the final version of the budget.  The budget will be debated before the full Senate in a week’s time and will then likely go conference to work out differences between the House and Senate versions.

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