Legislative Update – January 20, 2017

The second week of session had a lot of action with many House and Senate full committees and subcommittees meeting to move bills to their respective calendars for discussion.

Appoint or Elect

Both the House and the Senate took up bills to appoint the State Superintendent of Education.  In both bodies the process of moving to an appointed position was divided into two bills. One bill deals with the referendum question and the other bill deals with the qualifications of an appointed superintendent.

On Tuesday, the Senate Education K-12 Subcommittee met to discuss S. 27 which sets out the qualification requirements of an appointed superintendent. The bill sets out two experience options by which an individual could qualify.  The first option is with

“extensive experience in the field of education including, but not limited to, service as a classroom teacher, principal, other school or school district administrator, school district superintendent, member of a school board, or other education policy making body at either the state or local level or any combination of them.”

The second option is with

“extensive experience in operational and financial management in any field of expertise including, but not limited to, finance, economics, accounting, law, or business.”

After extensive discussion, the subcommittee adopted an amendment to specify that the individual using the first option for qualifying must have “experience in the field of public education. “  The bill received a favorable as amended report and moves to the full Senate Education Committee agenda.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee took up the referendum bill, S. 137.  This bill specifies that the State Superintendent of Education would become an appointed office beginning in January of 2023.  As explained in the meeting, if the resolution is enacted, voters would decide in 2018 if the office of superintendent should be appointed.  If approved by the voters, the last election of the State Superintendent of Education would take place in 2018 and the individual elected governor in 2022 would appoint the next superintendent upon taking office in January 2023. The bill received a favorable report and will be on the agenda for the full Judiciary Committee meeting on Tuesday, January 24.

The House Constitutional Laws Subcommittee discussed H. 3036, the companion bill to S. 27, and H. 3146, the companion bill to S. 137 on Thursday morning.  Both bills received a favorable report.  The subcommittee amended H. 3036 to specify that one of the options for qualifying for appointment is “extensive experience in the field of public education.” These bills will move to the next full Judiciary Committee agenda.

Accountability Recommendations Final

The Education Oversight Committee met on Tuesday giving their final approval to the Academic Standards and Assessment Subcommittee’s recommendations for a single state-wide accountability system.  Two amendments were offered to modify their recommendations and after much discussion were adopted.  The first amendment was offered by Senator Hembree. His amendment proposed to use the five performance rates of excellent, good, average, below average, and at-risk for both the summative and individual rating indicators. A second amendment was offered by Senator Matthews on behalf of Superintendent Spearman, a non-voting member of the committee.  This amendment reduced the number of state-wide assessments administered to students.  The subcommittee recommendation was to test science in grade four, social studies in grade five, and both science and social studies in grades 6-8.  The adopted amendment continues the rotation of science and social studies testing in the middle school with sixth graders taking science, seventh graders taking social studies, and eighth graders taking science. The plan will now be presented to the General Assembly for the drafting of legislation to implement the plan.

State Board of Education Regulations

The Senate Education K-12 Subcommittee moved two State Board of Education regulations to the full Senate Education Committee agenda and requested that the State Board of Education withdraw and resubmit two regulations.  The first regulation receiving a favorable report was R 43-274.1 At-Risk Students (Document 4656). Minor changes deleting references to PASS and HSAP were made to this regulation. The second regulation receiving a favorable report was R 43-80 Operation of Public Pupil Transportation Services (Document 4658). The purpose of the changes to this regulation is to allow for greater flexibility in certifying drivers to operate school buses.

Two regulations, R 43-279 Minimum Standards of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Enforcement (Document 4657), and R 43-210 School Resource Officers (Document 4659), did not receive favorable recommendations.  The subcommittee requested that these regulations be withdrawn and resubmitted with changes.  Several of the members were concerned that changes to the language in R 43-279 would lead to “criminalizing” student misconduct. R 43-210 was returned since it was seen as “traveling with” the previous regulation.

House K-12 Subcommittee Action

The House K-12 Subcommittee met on Wednesday morning to discuss three bills. The first bill, H. 3427, received a favorable report as amended. The amended bill requires the State Board of Education to adopt grade appropriate standards for computer science and computational thinking and computer coding for grades 9-12 by August 2018, and requires each public high school and public charter school to offer at least one computer science course beginning with the 2019-20 school year. In addition, the amendment offered on behalf of the State Department of Education by Representative Felder, requires the Department to offer professional development to teachers teaching computer science, assist districts in developing partnerships to engage students in computer science, and to outline educational and degree requirements for computer science teachers.

The second bill, H. 3220, received a favorable report.  It re-establishes the South Carolina Education and Economic Development Coordinating Council.  The makeup of the council is as it was established in the initial Education and Economic Development Act.

The final bill, H. 3221, also received a favorable report. This bill requires the Department of Education to implement a program for assisting and intervening in school districts exhibiting fiscal and budgetary concern.  The bill establishes three levels of fiscal concern – fiscal watch, fiscal caution, and fiscal emergency.  It outlines the various characteristics and procedures required at each level. This same bill was reported out of the House last session but failed to make it out of the Senate before time expired.


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