‘It’s like chopping with a machete through the jungle’: Senators continue work on education reform bill

Senators continue work on education reform bill

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Senate Education Chairman Senator Greg Hembree (R-Horry) said he would like to see the Senate’s version of the massive education reform bill (S.419) on the Senate floor for debate in January.

The Senate Education Subcommittee has held 16 meetings so far since the bill was introduced. Some changes have been made to it over the last few months.

“It’s like chopping with a machete through the jungle. That’s what it feels like sometimes,” Sen. Hembree said describing the process the subcommittee has taken with the piece of legislation. The subcommittee split the bill into 5 parts. The fifth and final portion of the bill is being discussed now.

Wednesday’s meeting was focused on governance and accountability. One of the topics included the removal of school board members. Hembree said, “I think it’s one of the most important parts of the bill and it has the potential to make some important change in the districts that are failing.”

Some teachers groups said there are parts of this portion that concern them, especially when it comes to the take over of failing school districts. South Carolina Education Association President, Sherry East, said, “We worry on how that is going to affect our teachers. You can go in and mark all their positions vacant and fire them all. Then rehire them, they would have to reapply. We’d worry about their due process.”

East said the state is already struggling with teacher retention and recruitment. She said they expect there will be hundreds of teacher vacancies statewide once the school year starts next week. “There’s potentially 20,000 children that won’t have a teacher on Monday morning. You don’t find teachers in late August.”

East said they are also monitoring the lawsuit filed in Cherokee County by a teacher last week. “I’m not sure what role we will take if any in this lawsuit. I assure you it’s happening across the whole state because I heard plenty of stories last year.”

Sen. Hembree said the subcommittee will be meeting again within a month to hammer out the final details on this portion of the bill. He expects subcommittee will vote on a report to the full committee very soon.

Copyright 2019 WIS. All rights reserved.