The Weekly Rewind: Week of April 19th

House Floor Review
April 21, 2022

With less than a month to go in the legislative session, expect to see a lot of attention given to the bills being debated these next few weeks! Since this is the last year of our two-year session, any legislation that does not become law before we adjourn will have to start the process over again next January.

Readers at www.nathansnews.com know about many of these issues coming to the House floor for debate: Educational Scholarship Accounts, Medicinal Marijuana, Certificate of Need, and – of course – our state’s budget.

Last week, the House passed H. 5183 the “Transparency & Integrity in Education Act” to address which many people around the country are calling the push for “Critical Race Theory” to be taught in our classrooms.

I have heard from many of you about your concerns and desire to “stop CRT” and also heard from many who believe this legislation could be a form of censorship and could prevent students from learning about the ugly parts of our state’s and nation’s history. This legislation (which now heads to the Senate) is just the opposite of that. This bill requires lessons in SC public schools to be impartial and age-appropriate. A concept I believe we can all find agreement.

The bill has three main concepts:

The first concept is a statement of the General Assembly’s intentions. At its heart, the bill declares that public education in South Carolina should be a fair and open education system where students, parents, educators, and the community are valued and included.

Students, parents, teachers, administrators, and communities are urged to work together to ensure and support for the state’s schools.

The second concept is that instruction should be non-biased and include the broad scope of history–both inspirational and shameful. To assist districts in doing this, the State Department of Education must create and make model lesson plans accessible to districts. The bill also ensures that material provided to students is age appropriate.

The third concept is that there must be a uniform complaint process and procedure that is fair to students, parents, and teachers. Disagreements will be encouraged to be resolved at the local level, but an appeals process to the State Board will be established.

The department must create a complaint policy and provide details of the complaint process. Districts, through the department, must report information regarding the complaints to the General Assembly. If the district violates the law, it must work with SDE on a corrective action plans. Funds may be withheld from a district if it fails to adhere to the corrective action plan.

What the bill does NOT do:

The bill is not simply a “mash up” of other bills. It was created only after 18 hours of public testimony, hundreds if not thousands of pages of written testimony, and assistance from the State Department of Education.

The bill does not discuss student feelings and subjective language is not used. Superintendent Spearman and others repeatedly told the committee that language prohibiting instruction that makes students feel uncomfortable would stifle teachers and be difficult to enforce. That language is not in the bill. Instead, teaching and instructional material should not promote or demean a particular race, sex, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.

The bill does not prohibit the teaching of controversial topics. Instead, it specifically provides that schools CAN teach the history of ethnic groups as described in state standards. They can allow for the impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history, and can have instruction of a particular group of people based on race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, or geographic origin. When doing so, the instruction must be impartial and done so without bias.

The bill does not cause extra work for teachers. During testimony, the committee heard that course syllabi is already (or should be) provided to parents and students at the beginning of the course. This bill merely affirms what should be in the syllabi. Because Superintendent Spearman ensured that every district has a Learning Management System in place, it has never been easier for schools to post the instructional materials that are used in the classroom.

This bill does not punish teachers for teaching controversial subjects. Yes, teachers can face disciplinary actions if they fail to teach those concepts in a fair and impartial manner, but the bill sets in place a process for a fair appeal by a teacher if a parent complain. The bill prohibits hearsay and groundless accusations and gives teachers, parents, students, and administrators an understandable and fair system for resolving differences.

The intent of this bill is to establish a transparent policy for teachers, parents, and students to maintain a high quality education not clouded by biases based on race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, or geographic origin.

Once session ends, I will begin my campaign to hopefully earn your support again in the June 14th Republican primary! I don’t like cluttering up the community with signs, but it’s the nature of the business. Please know that I place all my signs only where the property owner has given permission. I’m pleased again to have so many businesses and families offer to show their support in the weeks ahead. If you have any questions or concerns during the campaign, give me a call at home 803-834-4613.

It’s an honor to serve you and your family in Columbia!