SC lawmakers say they will try education reform again in 2021, some teachers want more input

Updated: Sep. 25, 2020 at 7:06 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Your child’s education was one of the most discussed topics at the State House last legislative session.

Lawmakers spent two years working on an education reform bill. The House passed their version in 2019. The Senate passed their version in March of this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those efforts stalled.

Senate Education Chairman Senator Greg Hembree (R-Horry) said work didn’t stop on the bill completely.

“We tried to work out those differences,” he said. “We were in conversations with the House after the pandemic. It became obvious that was not going to come to pass.”

Hembree said it was disappointing but he expects lawmakers will be working on education reform in 2021.

“We’re still trying to get our legs under us on the topic of K-12 education,” Hembree said. What is it going to be like when we get through the pandemic?"

He said he doesn’t want to step into some sweeping reforms right away. Hembree said there are a lot of changes happening in education because of the pandemic. However, he does want lawmakers to address the state’s education funding formula in 2021.

"The funding formula is the part that we are still going to have the same questions,' Hembree said. “We’re going to tackle that I believe.”

The education reform bill lawmakers were working on in 2019 and 2020 got some mixed reviews from educators. The grassroots teacher group, SC For Ed, was some of the biggest critics of the legislation. They said any bills involving education the General Assembly takes up in 2021 needs teacher input, especially a reform measure.

Founder Lisa Ellis said they would like to sit down with people in the business community and lawmakers and put together a bill.

“We would like to sit at a roundtable and discuss what the issues are and solve them together. That’s the best way to write any reform for education,” she said.

Hembree said he personally would like to see changes to the Read to Succeed Program. That would’ve happened under the Senate’s version of the bill. He said that might have to wait for a bit.

“I don’t think we’re quite ready. There are going to be a lot of kids who are behind we need to give them some time to catch up,” he said.

Hembree said he expects lawmakers to fund the yearly pay bump for teachers that was frozen in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the General Assembly can begin prefiling bills for the next legislative session later this year.

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