Legislative Update January 25-29

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

On Wednesday, January 27th, the House K12 subcommittee heard the following bills:

H.4536 (Compulsory Attendance Age) increases the compulsory attendance age from 17 to 18. The subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill.

H.4505 (Youth Challenge GED) permits students at the National Guard Youth Challenge Academy to sit for the GED in the event that they have an offer of immediate employment or admission to a postsecondary institution. The subcommittee adjourned debate on the bill.

Also on Wednesday the House Constitutional Law Subcommittee heard the following item:

H.3041 (Appointing Superintendent) is a joint resolution calling for a referendum to go before South Carolina voters as to whether the State Superintendent if Education should be a position appointed by the Governor, with qualifications for the office to be determined by the General Assembly. The joint resolution received a favorable report.

SENATE

On Wednesday, January 27th, the Senate Education Committee addressed the following items:

S.933 (HSAP Waiver for Diplomas) extends the deadline for which an individual who failed HSAP to apply for a high school diploma to December 31, 2017.  Note that per testimony provided by the State Department of Education this does not affect the calculation of graduation rates.  This bill received a favorable report.

Document 4603, Regulation 43-307 (Assessment and Accountability) amends state Accountability and Assessment requirements to remove references to No Child Left Behind and replace them with references of, “as necessary to meet U.S. Department of Education approval.” This change to the regulation received a favorable report.

Document 4604, Regulation 43-261 (State Superintendent Waivers) amends regulations related to Administrative Procedures such that once the State Board of Education has granted a waiver request from a local board of trustees for a regulation that would impede the implementation of an approved district strategic plan or school renewal plan. The State Board of Education may delegate to the State Superintendent the ability to waive regulatory requirements for similarly situated school districts and schools. This change to the regulation received a favorable report.

Document 4606, Regulation 43-100 (Test Security) amends regulations related to breach of ethical conduct to provide that prohibitions against excluding examinees or exempting from assessment students who should be assessed does not include students who opt out of the assessment and therefore does not threaten an educator’s certificate. This change to the regulation received a favorable report.

Wednesday, January 27th the Senate Subcommittee met and reviewed:

S.1017 (Appointing Superintendent) is a joint resolution calling for a referendum to go before South Carolina voters as to whether the State Superintendent of Education should be a position appointed by the Governor, with qualifications for the office to be determined by the General Assembly. The joint resolution received a favorable report.
On Thursday, January 29th, the Special Senate Committee in Response to the Abbeville case met and heard the following testimony:

Andy Baxter of the Southern Regional Educational Board (SREB) began by stressing that there is a very strong relationship between the poverty level of a particular area and the number of teachers that leave.  Mr. Baxter presented a number of possible remedies including increasing compensation for new teachers in rural districts, establishing alternative certification methods for new teachers, and also providing existing teachers with mentor training to assist their fellow first year teachers.  He also provided data from several polls showing that first year teachers place a high value on factors such as general job satisfaction, having materials and equipment readily available, and feeling encouragement from positions of leadership within their respective schools and districts.  Mr. Baxter added that most of the above factors do not require a lot of money but just good leadership within each district.

The Subcommittee also heard testimony from Jane Turner with the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA).  Ms. Turner explained that South Carolina currently has a fundamental problem regarding the number of teachers available in the state.  She explained that South Carolina averages about 2,000 teaching vacancies that need to be filled each year.  This requires out of state recruiting and the use of alternative teacher certification programs.  According to a recent survey, 14.2% of teachers leave after their first year of teaching and almost 37% leave after year five.

Ms. Turner also informed the Subcommittee about several incentives that CERRA supports in an effort to recruit new teachers in rural areas across this state.  One such incentive program, known as the “Teacher Cadet Incentive Program,” would provide twenty rural districts (as determined in the budget proviso) with financial assistance to allow one teacher per class period to instruct a teacher cadet class throughout the school day.  The Teacher Cadet Program uses an innovative approach designed to attract talented young people to the teaching profession through a challenging introduction to teaching.  This program would come at no cost to the districts and all materials would be provided by grants from CERRA.

Before adjourning, the Subcommittee also heard from Ramona McKoy-Cummings, former Dillon District Four Teacher of the Year.  Mrs. McKoy-Cummings described the various issues that teachers in rural districts across the state deal with on a daily basis.  One of the most important challenges involves the large salary disparity between urban and rural districts.  She stated that many new teachers are coming out of college with increasing amounts of student loan debt and are often forced to apply to higher paying districts in order to make ends meet.  Mrs. McKoy-Cummings also suggested that the Subcommittee look at possibly implementing a “Sister-School” program to connect affluent and poverty stricken schools across the state.

The Subcommittee plans to hold an additional meeting over the next two weeks to address early childhood education before putting ideas into a recommendation to present to the full committee.

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