Panel of lawmakers move forward with education reform bill

Panel of lawmakers move forward with education reform bill

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina lawmakers are one step closer to passing a bill that they said would reform education in the state.

A Senate Education subcommittee voted to send the S.419 to the full committee Wednesday.

Senators on the Education Committee met for the first time to take up the bill.

Keely Hitchings was in attendance for Wednesday's meeting.

Hitchings is a high school teacher in the Midlands and was at the meeting with other members of the grassroots group, SC for ED.

Hitchings said there are some things she likes about the bill but there are some things that concern her and other SC for ED members. "I'm just concerned that we'll pat ourselves on the back in South Carolina and say we passed some reform and nothing is really going to change," she said.

Hitchings and other members of SC for ED said they would like to see class sizes addressed.

Senators on the committee said they would like to meet at least two more times before they reconvene in January to potentially send the bill to the Senate floor.

Over the last few months, the subcommittee met 20 times to tweak the Senate's version of the legislation. Chairman Senator Greg Hembree said, "Every day we are losing ground. We don't have time to put it off. There are human beings going to be affected if we fail to act. Some educators believe this bill alone won't make too much of a difference."

Some educators said that this bill alone won't solve all the problems with education. Patrick Kelly, a teacher in the Midlands said, "If we want to move the needle on teacher recruitment and student achievement the baseline is we need to fully meet our obligation to fund our schools. From there we can enact a lot of the reforms being discussed in the General Assembly."

As lawmakers continue to work on the bill, State Superintendent Molly Spearman said she's hopeful it will be signed into law next year.

Spearman told WIS teachers can expect to see a raise next year. "I've asked for a 5% increase. We'll see how that money will be distributed. We have to do something to raise salaries. More than we did last year."

Hitchings said she believes parts of the bill need to be removed before it’s signed into law. “I do think if we were motivated to quickly come up with smaller bills that address these issues - that they could make that happen.”

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