The Weekly Rewind – April 12th

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This past week was ‘crossover” week at the State House. Simply put, that means if legislation did not pass one chamber, it would require a 2/3 vote of the other chamber to take the legislation up for debate. Basically, if legislation you were interested in didn’t “crossover” from one chamber last week, you’ll need to wait til next January before it has a chance of being debated. The good news is that this is just the first year of a two year session; so those bills aren’t dead.

What are some pieces of legislation that didn’t crossover this week? Medical Marijuana, Fetal Heartbeat, Offshore drilling, Gun Regulations and Constitutional Carry Legislation are just a few you have brought to my attention.

What are some pieces of legislation that are still in line to pass this year once the Senate or House get to their debate? Solar Energy and the Carolina Panthers bill are two that have made a lot of news. As well as the Education Reform legislation the House passed earlier this year.

One bill that gained a lot of attention this week was the Samantha Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act. Named for the young lady who was tragically murdered recently in Five Points, the House voted overwhelmingly (99-1) to send the bill to the Senate. The bill requires Uber and other ride-sharing companies to put an illuminated sign in their window in hopes that could help connect riders to the correct drivers. The bill seeks to increase the distance the rider can start the verification process, but still encourages riders to check to make sure the license plate and car match with the app. North Carolina legislators filed an identical Uber Safety Bill in their State House this week. We know this bill isn’t the cure to all the problems, but it certainly can help. I’ve spoke to law enforcement officers in our community who feel one solution to reduce crime in Five Points is to “block off the streets to car traffic” during certain hours (perhaps 10pm – 3pm). Most of the tragedies that have occurred through the years involved cars in this area: Strom Thurmond’s daughter hit and killed by a car, stray bullet from a drive-by that paralyzed a USC student, and now Samantha’s abduction and murder. I passed that suggestion on to Mayor Benjamin and hope the city will consider many changes to make the area safe for the students, visitors, and surrounding neighborhoods.

When you read this column, the House will be finishing up our Furlough Week and the Senate will hopefully have passed their version of the state’s budget.

The House returns next Tuesday, April 23rd and has 10 legislative days left before we adjourn sine-die on Thursday, May 9th.

If there’s legislation important to you and you’d like to know the status, please call my office or you can go to www.scstatehouse.gov and search under the “Bill” section. Call or email if you need further explanation than what you see on-line.

Thank you for the honor and privilege to serve your family and our community in Columbia! Stop by the State House anytime and take a free tour and swing by my office if you’d like. Anytime you need help with state government (or have advice/opinions on how to improve our quality of life), please give me a call at home 732-1861 or at my State House office 734-2969.

Fritz Hollings to lie in State at the State House

Former SC Governor, US Senator Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings Dies at 97

From the Office of the Governor

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Former South Carolina Governor and United States Senator Fritz Hollings will lie in state at the South Carolina State House on Monday, April 15, from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM. The viewing will be open to the public throughout the day and all who are able are encouraged to visit the State House to pay their respects to Senator Hollings and his family.

Logistical information:

• Beginning at 10:00 AM, an honor guard consisting of members of the S.C. Highway Patrol and the S.C. National Guard will escort Senator Hollings’ casket to the second floor lobby of the State House via the outdoor steps on the south side of the State House. (Note: designated press areas will be clearly identified on the ground floor outside of the State House)

• Beginning at 10:30 AM, those wishing to pay their respects may enter the State House through the public entrance on the north side and proceed to the second floor where Senator Hollings’ casket will be placed. (Note: members of the media will be permitted to access the third floor of the State House. SCETV will provide pool coverage from 9:45 AM – 11:00 AM, which can be accessed through a mult box on site or via satellite.)

• The event will also be streamed live at www.scetv.org/RememberingHollings.

• The State House will close to the public at 5:00 PM, at which time the honor guard will escort the casket down the south steps to the hearse.

Unclaimed Veteran Funeral – April 12th

I’m going to do my best to take time next Friday to attend this funeral for someone who served our country. I don’t know him, but apparently he doesn’t have any family. Sad. Makes me think back to my favorite series (The West Wing) and this episode (4 min clip): In Excelsis Deo

Here is an email I received this week. Can’t recall ever receiving one of these.

Unclaimed Veteran Funeral Announcement
Lynch, William

Good Afternoon Everyone,

It is with great sadness that again I am reaching out to inform the community of the death of an unclaimed veteran. Mr. George Shaw honorably and faithfully served our country in the United States Coast Guard.

Mr. Shaw passed away on March 6th, 2019 and has no identifiable family. The Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program will hold a funeral service with military honors at 11 AM on Friday, April 12th 2019 at Fort Jackson National Cemetery.

The Homeless Veterans Burial Program is inviting the community to attend the funeral services for Mr. George Thomas Shaw to serve as his family and to help provide a honorable farewell.

A funeral procession will start at 10:15 am, leaving from Dunbar Funeral Home Dutch Fork Chapel. Funeral Escorts will be provided by the Patriot Guard Riders and the Richland County Sheriff’s Office.

I would ask if you please forward this email to any person who should know about or may be able to attend the funeral services for Mr. Shaw. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to me.

William.Lynch@dignitymemorial.com
803-345-3500

Ballentine Spring Festival – April 6th – see you there!

The Weekly Rewind – March 29th

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Last week brought a big step forward in reducing income taxes in South Carolina!

Members of the House Tax Policy Review Committee have introduced legislation that would substantially change our state income tax by making it flatter and fairer. The bill calls for reducing the state income tax rate 35-percent from 7% to 4.5% over 5 years. As many know, our entire state tax system is an antiquated, hodgepodge of unfair taxing policy that awards some and punishes others. Our Tax Review Committee has been working for a couple of years to develop policies that would make SC’s tax structure fairer and stimulate our state’s economy. Just last week they heard from famed Reagan administration economist Arthur Laffer who encouraged us to lower tax rates resulting in growth in the economy.

Currently, SC has five income tax brackets, topping out rapidly at 7 percent. That’s high and not competitive with our neighboring states. The bill filed last week would eventually slash the tax rate from 7% to 4.5%. Who pays more and who pays less under the proposal would depend on how many tax credits and deductions people currently take and how they make their money. The state’s current tax policy gives preferences to older people and gives breaks on certain kinds of income, such as profits from stock trades. Under the proposal, all income and ages are treated equally. Itemized deductions and income tax credits would go away. This is obviously a major change and one I will continue to monitor and review to make sure the bill “really saves people money” instead of just moving funds around from one group to another.

While I’m talking about tax savings, last month the House passed our budget that provided a taxpayer rebate ($50) for every taxpayer in our state. Basically we had $1 billion in “extra money” this year and, after making all the priorities we wanted in the budget (teacher pay increases, tuition freezes, etc) many of us in the House felt we should return some of YOUR tax dollars back to you. This $50 uses about $100 million of that “extra money” (which is just 10%). When you look at the $1 billion in terms of $500 million recurring and $500 million non-recurring. This means we actually are proposing to return 20% of the non-recurring money to the taxpayers. Do you agree with this or would you rather government spend that money on something else? My fear is that the Senate will spend that money on pork projects and so the taxpayer won’t get it nor would some deserving group – teachers, retirees, military, state employees, etc. Please call or email me and let me know your preference!

Another major item last week was Santee Cooper and how to salvage another blow from the VC Summer fiasco. Momentum is building in both the House and Senate for the sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper. The House has issued a Joint Resolution authorizing the Public Service Authority Evaluation and Recommendation Committee which paves the way for the selling of Santee Cooper by continuing the committee process and evaluating bids before recommending a final offer to the General Assembly. And, just this week legislation was filed in the House that would increase transparency and accountability at Santee Cooper. I’ll keep you informed as those of you with MCEC as your electricity provider, will be interested in the outcome.

Lastly, we talked a lot about jobs last week. The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation that would give the Carolina Panthers a tax breaks if it moves its headquarters and training facilities to Rock Hill, across the border from where they play in Charlotte. The reason legislation was needed is because current tax breaks in place for other businesses do not include “professional sports teams”. Simply put, if this was Panthers Manufacturing or some other service, the legislation would not be needed because it has already been in place for economic development situations similar to this. The bill does nothing if the Panthers do not move. If the Panthers do move, they would get a break on taxes – it would not be taking any current tax dollars and giving to them. As a reporter put it “i’ts not your dollars going to the Panthers, it’s the Panthers tax dollars going to the Panthers instead of state government.”

As always, let me know your thoughts on these topics or others by calling me at home (732-1861) or the State House Office (734-2969) or by emailing me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov.

Check your inbox for the APRIL COMMUNITY UPDATE email and be sure to check in regularly to www.nathansnews.com to stay more informed about what’s going on in Columbia and around our community!

More housing developments proposed in our area

Once again we have developers applying for the SC State Housing Finance and Development Authority’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program in our area. This time it’s 2 projects in the Irmo area.

As I have done previously, I wanted to bring to your attention (scroll after cliking link) since Representative Huggins and I receive certified letters informing us of the applications. Not sure how letter dated 2/26 and send 2/28 just got to my desk today (3/19)?

NathansNews readers may recall this has been going on for years, and many of the projects never came to fruition. Until recently.

Recently, projects have been approved on Lake Murray Boulevard (across from Wendy’s in Irmo where Silver Fox Tennis used to be) and on Ballentine Park Road (behind Ballentine Food Lion/Dutch Fork Baptist Church). And now, it looks like there are more trying to be built on Lake Murray Boulevard and adjacent to Lake Murray Boulevard as well.

Since this has happened at least 5 or 6 times through the years, I’ve learned a lot and wanted to share:

1) This is a FEDERAL program (money comes from Feds to the states and – something we hear a lot – “they gotta spend it”. Not a fan of that logic)
2) Approvals are based on the scoring of each project and the amount of funding available. Simply put, once scores are calculated, the agency looks at funding available and goes down the list of high to low scores and approves projects until “the money is out”.
3) There are no points awarded or deducted based on community feedback (I highly disagree with this; but cannot change at the state level).
4) These are not SECTION 8 developments. I have been told these designed for “the teachers, firefighters, policeman who work in the community but cannot afford to actually live in the community”. Again, that is what I’ve been told.

Each time I’ve received notice, I’ve asked y’all have reach out to me and let me know your concerns and I agree to share those with the SC Housing Agency. This time it looks like about 35 projects have applied . While I do not get a vote on these matters. I do get to share my response and ask that you share yours as well.

To have your voice heard, you can do one of two things:

1) Email me directly at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov with the title “Parkside at Columbiana” and I will forward you emails to the SC State Housing Finance and Development Authority. “Parkside at Columbiana” is the development proposed in the area I represent. “Cooper’s Trace” is the development that is proposed in the area Rep. Huggins represents”. Of course, we’re all in the same area – but just wanted to share that detail with you.

or

2) Email Laura Nicholson directly (Laura.Nicholson@schousing.com) and cc: me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov

While I have been told our responses and feedback do not impact the scores, I do believe in our community having a voice and sharing feedback.

As I’ve shared before, it bothers me when developers from out-of-our-area come do this. In the past it has been developers from Florida. “Parkside at Columbiana” looks like a developer from the Upstate. Those developers don’t have a footprint here, live here, shop here, go to schools or churches here, and -in my opinion – don’t consider the impact on the community as much as perhaps a local developer would.

We are more than aware of our overcrowded schools and infrastructure needs with the current population. Packing in 40-50 families in these developments will only add to that burden and problems. Just like what we will soon experience over at Ballentine Park Road behind Food Lion and Dutch Fork Baptist.

As I learn more, I will keep you posted.

The Weekly Rewind – March 15th

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The legislative work days are getting longer and we’re nearing the middle of this year’s legislative session which, for the House, means this week was “Budget Week.” After going through the budget line by line and working past midnight Tuesday, we successfully sent this year’s budget to the Senate with only one “nay” vote. (Keep reading for more details on what is included in this year’s budget.)

For years, my colleagues would give me grief during Budget Week because it was my work with then Rep. Nikki Haley that led to these “on the record votes”. More than 300 taken this week to be exact! Prior to the passage of our bill, members didn’t have to be on record for each section of the budget and so you would never know what they stood for or against. You can imagine (or recall if you followed along 8 years ago), how upset my colleagues were that we would actually “make everyone vote on the record”. Lately, they’ve gotten over it and realize it’s the best thing for us to provide transparency to the public.

Another exciting moment for South Carolina happened this week when it was revealed the Carolina Panthers are working on a deal to move their NFL team’s headquarters and training facilities out of Charlotte and into South Carolina! This would be a huge economic win for our state that would drive hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy. We are working on legislation that will help make this possible.

It is proving to be a big year for South Carolina’s economy with the Governor and lawmakers finally working together to create a balanced budget, reforming our antiquated tax system, and focusing on efforts to attract and keep businesses in our state.

Budget Week

After months of working with Gov. McMaster, building consensus, and many hours of debate, we passed our General Appropriation Bill for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. This year’s budget is focused on investing in education and workforce development by increasing teacher pay, providing tuition assistance, and funding for workforce training programs.

Not only does the budget not increase taxes, but also it actually provides tax relief in the form of a rebate for everyone who pays income tax. Many amendments were debated. One of which was to add Gov. McMaster’s language to ensure taxpayers will not have to pay for abortion services at Planned Parenthood. That amendment led to hours long debate before ultimately being passed.

When we began assembling this budget, it was important to me that it be built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we spend. Many agree we have done just that and I hope the Senate doesn’t make too many changes before sending back to us – and ultimately going to a 6 person conference committee (3 House members, 3 Senators). As always, our budget is in balance. We also will get this passed before the deadline.this summer.

Highlights from the budget:

· Nearly $160 million to provide every teacher a pay raise, helping to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best teachers. 30% of the budget surplus from last year will be devoted to raising teacher pay.

· $50 million for high-poverty school districts to use for building renovations and upgrades.

· $20 million for new and improved textbooks and instructional for our schools.

· $10 million to hire 120 more school-resource officers for schools that don’t already have one and cannot afford them.

· $41 million to raise state employee salaries.

· $49.7 million to cover state employee health and dental insurance increases.

· $32 million for retired state employees, who are covered by the state’s retirement system, to return to work without facing a $10,000 salary cap as long as they have been retired for a year.

Also, unless the Senate pulls the funds to spend on some of their pork projects, every taxpayer will receive a $50 rebate later this year!

There are many important issues we need to address in the weeks ahead, be sure I know which ones are most important to you! Please call me at my State House Office 734-2969, email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov or call me at home at 732-1861. Of course, when you see me around town or at the ballfields or church, take time to say hello and let me get to meet you! I love staying in touch and being reminded of the people I represent in Columbia!

Budget week – Day One (that’s a lot of votes!)

176 votes!

That’s how many votes the House cast today during the first day of floor “debate” on the budget. Let me put that in context for you. While opponents love to see any “missed votes” by elected officials; frankly, not all votes are equal.

I remember in my primary last year, my opponents tried to create an issue that I had missed “100+ votes out of 200.” Something to the effect of trying to make it look like I missed half the votes we took for the year and that I was somehow not doing my job. (Sidenote: I had actually missed the first day of the budget back then due to an obligation with my paying job). There’s too much to unwind there, I don’t have the time or bandwith here to unravel again; but the voters saw through that smear (and others) and re-elected me with an overwhelming 70% vote compared to 25% and 5% for the other 2 opponents.

The votes today were never in doubt and were basically “non contested” in the sense that on the first day of the budget, the House goes through each section ( with a ROLL CALL VOTE – by the way, my bill with former Rep and Governor Nikki Haley ) that does not have any amendments on the desk OR has that does not have a request from a member to “carry over” until later in the week (where we would actually debate the sections). As you can see by the photo, most votes are unanimous or close to unanimous. If you want to click on the link above (176 votes) you will see the “closest” vote on a section today was 72-32 and 66-19. The OVERWHELMING number of votes were unanimous or had no more than 1-4 members voting against.

Every first day of the budget is like this. It’s the rest of the week where the votes “matter” and will actually be contested.

Simply put, before you fall for an opponent’s attack against an elected official (or a special interest group’s attack), just call your Representative or Senator and ask what happened. Today there were several members who were away from the chamber. Many of us have paying jobs and sometimes those jobs (or families) take priority over what are considered, basically, uncontested votes.

Just wanted to share this today for my colleagues who may have been absent or abstained from votes (many attorneys have conflicts of interest). I’d hate for them to be smeared like me and others have been in the past. I get it, that’s SC politics. It’s no fun; but the public deserves to know the story behind the votes. It’s exactly what my colleagues told me when they fought against roll-call voting. They knew that it would simply be “gotcha” for slick consultants and opponents to use against them in mail pieces or on the campaign trail.

Even though I was a part of “gotcha” politics by others manipulating the voting numbers, I would still lead the push again for roll call voting because there ARE many votes that matter and our constituents need to know where we stand on those issues.

As always, if you have an issue important to you, let your elected official know! Tomorrow we begin the “real debate” on the budget – we’ll be in chamber again all day; so make your voice heard.

Upstate BMW – nation’s top vehicle exporter, again

By David Wren dwren@postandcourier.com

South Carolina’s BMW plant remained the nation’s top vehicle exporter by dollar value in 2018 with more than $8.4 billion worth of cars shipped to foreign countries, the German automaker said Friday.

It’s the fifth consecutive year that BMW’s Upstate campus led all other U.S. vehicle exporters, and it happened during a year when tariffs and production changes led to fewer cars being shipped to overseas markets from the Port of Charleston.

“Despite last year’s model changeovers and the ongoing uncertainty regarding trade and tariffs, Plant Spartanburg is still positively contributing to the U.S. balance of trade,” Knudt Flor, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing, said in a statement.

With trade talks between the U.S. and China making progress and several new vehicles either in production or on the way, Flor said he expects an increase this year in both in the number of cars built and exported from the plant.

BMW exported 234,689 South Carolina-made vehicles in 2018 — 13.8 percent fewer than in the previous year. While most of those cars are sent from the Port of Charleston, BMW increasingly used other Southeast ports in 2018. Charleston accounted for 80.6 percent of BMW exports last year — down from 87 percent in 2017.

“BMW is a significant port user whose operations are a tremendous asset to the port and the state of South Carolina,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the State Ports Authority. “As customers of both Inland Port Greer and the Port of Charleston, BMW’s continued expansion has been a driver of our strong import and export volumes.”

While the dollar value of BMW exports fell 4.1 percent last year, the S.C. -made SUVs — with list prices ranging between $42,000 and $75,000 — held onto the top spot the automaker has kept since 2014, when it exported $9.2 billion worth of cars.

BMW accounted for nearly one-fourth of South Carolina’s record $34.6 billion in exports last year. Finished vehicles were state’s the top export commodity in 2018, followed by airplanes including those built at Boeing Co.’s North Charleston campus
To read more, click here.

The Weekly Rewind – March 8th

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The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3759, the “SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION, CAREER OPPORTUNITY, AND ACCESS FOR ALL ACT”. The legislation makes comprehensive revisions that are offered as a means of ensuring that the state’s public school students receive the training needed to meet 21st century demands. New emphasis is placed on mathematics and technology that includes a requirement for each public high school in the state to offer at least one rigorous, standards based computer science course. Enhancements are made to the SC Read to Succeed Initiative that focuses on crucial literacy skills. Provisions are made to afford public school students a smoother transition into higher education and workforce opportunities. These include expanded dual enrollment programs and improved access to state scholarship funding to cover training costs. The legislation raises the minimum teacher salary statewide and offers an array of incentives geared towards attracting individuals to teaching and retaining those professionals in the classroom. Some of the incentives focus on encouraging teachers to pursue their careers in schools that are failing to meet goals for academic performance and in areas of the state that are experiencing the greatest economic distress. Enhanced accountability provisions are included to direct assistance to schools that are struggling academically and to transform or close chronically underperforming schools. A school district consolidation protocol is established for merging less populous districts that are failing to meet standards for student performance. Local school board members are subjected to ethics provisions. A Special Council on Revitalizing Education is created to advise policy makers on ways to improve collaboration among state agencies and institutions and what steps should be taken to ensure that the state’s public education system is emphasizing skills demanded in the workplace.

Goals and Governance

The State of South Carolina establishes an overall statewide workforce readiness goal of at least sixty percent of all working age South Carolinians having a post secondary degree or recognized industry credentials before the year 2030. This goal is consistent with all students graduating and having the knowledge, skills, and characteristics contained in the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate.

A “Student Bill of Rights” is established to enumerate basic expectations including: students should expect that the General Assembly, Governor, State Superintendent of Education, State Board of Education, local school boards, local superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents to focus on improving education, and creating a system that puts them first; students should feel safe and secure in school; students should have educational choice; and the ability to challenge unfair treatment. These provisions do not create or imply a private cause of action for a violation.

A “Teacher Bill of Rights” is established to enumerate those things that all certified public school teachers in South Carolina should be able to expect. These include: working in an environment conducive to learning; the inclusion of their discretion with regard to disciplinary and instructional decisions; freedom from frivolous lawsuits, planning time; a competitive salary; no unnecessary paperwork; support from school administration. These provisions do not create or imply a private cause of action for a violation.

Provisions are made for the South Carolina Teacher of the Year and a public school student appointed by the Governor to serve as non-voting advisory members of the State Board of Education.

Special Council on Revitalizing Education

The legislation establishes within the Office of the Governor the Special Council on Revitalizing Education (SCORE) which is created to: (1) monitor the state education and workforce pipeline to continually determine the education and training levels required by the state’s employers; (2) identify and recommend improvements regarding efficiency and cooperation of agencies and programs throughout the education and workforce pipeline; and (3) report findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on a continuous basis.

The Governor serves as the chairman of the ten-member council. The Governor may, however, delegate the position of chairman and SCORE duties to the Lieutenant Governor. The other council members are appointed to five-year terms, with SCORE being composed of: (a) three members appointed by the Governor; (b) one member appointed by the Speaker of the House; (c) one member appointed by the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; (d) one member appointed by the Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee; (e) one member appointed by the President of the Senate; (f) one member appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; and (g) one member appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Council members may not concurrently serve as a member of the General Assembly. Appointed members must have a background in early childhood education, K 12 education, higher education, business, workforce development, or economic development. Two council members, one from the appointees allotted the House of Representatives and the other from the appointees allotted the Senate, must be current or retired highly effective teachers. A member of the council may serve no more than two consecutive terms.

The Governor shall hire an executive director who must possess a background in at least one of the following: early childhood education, K 12 education, higher education, business, workforce development, or economic development.

Before October 1, 2021, the council shall establish a series of benchmarks that must include, but are not limited to the following:
(1) access to quality early learning, as determined by the council, including the number of three and four year old children in quality early learning settings;
(2) third grade reading proficiency, including the percentage of third grade students who score ‘Meets’ or ‘Exceeds Expectations’ on the SC Ready assessment, or its successor;
(3) eighth grade mathematics, including the percentage of eighth grade students who score ‘Meets’ or ‘Exceeds Expectations’ on the SC Ready assessment, or its successor;
(4) high school graduation rates, including the percentages of students who graduated in four and five years;
(5) youth nonparticipation, including the percentage of South Carolina residents between sixteen and eighteen years of age who are not going to school on the secondary level or in adult education, not in the military, or not otherwise working;
(6) post high school enrollment, including the percentage of South Carolina high school graduates who are in postsecondary education the semester after graduation from high school or are gainfully employed; and
(7) post high school education attainment, including the percentage of South Carolina residents ages twenty two through sixty five who have completed a two or four year degree, or have received a nationally recognized certification as determined by the Department of Commerce.

With assistance and consultation from the Department of Administration, the council is charged with creating and maintaining a publicly accessible website that reports the benchmark information, explains the benchmarks, and provides an annual update to show the state’s progress toward meeting each goal.

Beginning in 2021, the council is required to make an annual comprehensive report to the Governor and General Assembly that specifically identifies areas within the education and workforce pipeline where state agencies and other publically funded entities are failing to meet the benchmarks. The council shall provide recommendations regarding ways that state and local efforts can be improved, ways that collaboration and cooperation among state and local agencies and resources can be increased, and efforts underway or being considered in other states that address the noted areas of concern. The council also shall recommend legislation it considers necessary.

Enhancements to Academic Rigor to Improve Student Preparation

Computer Science and Mathematics Coursework and Incentives

The State Board of Education is charged with conducting, at least every five years, a cyclical review of grade appropriate standards for computer science, computational thinking, and computer coding for grades kindergarten through grade twelve.

No later than the beginning of the 2020 2021 School Year, each public high school and public charter high school must offer at least one rigorous, standards based computer science course. The course is to be made available in a traditional classroom setting, in a dual enrollment course, blended learning environment, online based, or other technology based format tailored to meet the needs of each participating student.

Beginning in the 2020 2021 School Year, the Department of Education shall:

(1) employ one experienced full time employee whose sole responsibility is to coordinate and lead the South Carolina Computer Science Education Initiative;
(2) support K 12 academic and computer science teachers in designing interdisciplinary, project based instruction and assignments that engage students in applying literacy, math, and computational thinking skills to solve problems;
(3) design career pathways that connect students to postsecondary programs, degrees, or postsecondary credentials in such high demand career fields as cybersecurity, information systems, informatics, graphic design, computer engineering, and software development;
(4) offer professional development and teacher endorsements to new teachers who will teach computer science;
(5) provide information and materials which identify emerging career opportunities in computer science and related fields to parents, students, teachers, and guidance counselors; and
(6) assist districts in developing partnerships with business, industry, higher education, and communities to provide afterschool and extracurricular activities that engage students in computer science.

By August 1, 2021, the State Department of Education shall develop a technology plan that addresses wireless Internet access for all public schools and must provide a report to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate.


Statewide Assessment Program Revisions

The legislation removes summative assessments not required by federal accountability law. This includes eliminating the eighth grade science assessment, all grades 3-8 social studies assessments, and the United States History end-of-course assessment.


Early Childhood

The Office of First Steps and the State Department of Education (SDE) must provide a report to the General Assembly regarding how to increase the number of children attending state-funded four-year-old kindergarten programs.

Read to Succeed Initiative Enhancements

The State Board of Education is charged with approving no more than five reliable and valid early literacy and numeracy screening assessment instruments for selection and use by school districts in kindergarten through third grade.

Assessments must be given at the beginning of the school year. For students who need additional assistance, the screening will also occur during the middle and end of the school year. Assessment results must be reported to the State Department of Education which is responsible for monitoring student progress.

Read to Succeed are revised to require that districts provide appropriate in-class intervention until all students are at grade level.

Students are to be retained if their SC Ready scores are at the “Does Not Meet” level. This is more rigorous than the current “Not Met 1” level.

The reading portfolio exemption for retention is strengthened.
When exemptions from retention are granted because of appeals by students’ parents or guardians, school districts are required to report on the number of appeals made, the number granted, and the outcome of the students whose appeals are successful.

More specific job duties and position requirements are established for reading coaches.

The State Department of Education must screen and approve reading coaches for districts where more than one-third of the students score at the lowest achievement level.

Early childhood, elementary, and special education teachers must pass a test regarding reading instruction before they can be certified.

Professional development required for compliance with Read to Succeed must be offered at no cost by the school districts.

The Commission on Higher Education and the Learning Disorders Taskforce are charged with examining the effectiveness of teacher education programs in regard to diagnosing and assisting students with reading difficulties.


Transition into Higher Education and Workforce Opportunities

The legislation provides for an expansion of dual enrollment opportunities so that students who want to go to college already have at least one year of college credit by creating a uniform, statewide credit articulation agreement between K-12 and higher education. The Advisory Committee on Academic Programs is required to develop a statewide dual enrollment articulation agreement that will replace all locally created agreements between K-12 and higher education.

Students desiring an Education Lottery scholarship must, in addition to existing requirements, take a math and English course during their senior year of high school to maintain these skills prior to entering college.

The legislation emphasizes an accountability system that should let parents know if schools are successful in preparing students for eventual success in college or on the job. To further this effort, the State Department of Education must continuously monitor student progress in grades K-12, and provide parents and students with lexile and quantile scores derived from assessments. In addition to using Lexile and Quantile scores, high school equivalency assessment thresholds may also serve as common admission scores to technical colleges. A test in an English/language arts and mathematics course may be used to satisfy the requirement. A test for every course is not required.

The legislation revises and updates the Education and Economic Development Act (EEDA). The State Department of Education, the Technical College System, the Commission on Higher Education, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Employment and Workforce must collaborate to ensure that workforce needs are aligned with career pathways and K-12 curriculum.

High schools or career centers must have a minimum of three career pathways, with at least one pathway in a high-skill, high-demand area. Pathways must be reviewed every three years and updated as needed. School districts must coordinate with each other to ensure student access to multiple pathways. Upon Department approval of bus routes, districts may provide transportation for students.

The State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education (SBTCE) must establish, and technical colleges must recognize, common admission scores. (Scores may be differentiated for certain programs of study.) Students who do not meet the minimum admission score should be encouraged to enter a noncredit program that awards a national recognized business or industry credential. Education Lottery Tuition Assistance is available for individuals who enroll in a noncredit, credential awarding program provided they enroll within seven years of the first time they entered the ninth grade.


Incentives for Teachers and Educator Development and Satisfaction

The state’s minimum teacher salary is increased to thirty five thousand dollars.

The legislation provides that no tuition may be charged for a period of four school years by any state supported college or university or any state supported vocational or technical school for children of full time certified classroom teachers with at least five years of teaching service who are employed in schools that have an absolute rating of unsatisfactory for at least three of the previous four years. The teacher must serve as a full time classroom teacher during the time the child is receiving the tuition free higher education. The benefit is retained even if the school’s academic performance improves.

An income tax credit is established that covers all of the property taxes paid for five years on a residence for a K-12 public school teacher who lives and teaches is a county designated as a Tier IV economically distressed county.

In order to better understand the demands of the 21st century workplace, public school teachers who work in grades 6-12 are encouraged to become interns for up to 80 hours per year. Employers who hire teachers for these summer internships are eligible for a $2,000 tax credit for each teacher they employee.

The board of trustees of a local school district may authorize the daily mileage reimbursement of a teacher who must travel more than twenty five miles each way between home and school. This reimbursement may not exceed the existing federal rate.

Local school boards of trustees may establish policies allowing teachers to enroll their children in the schools where they teach regardless of the student’s zoned area of attendance, and if space is available at the receiving school.

Each classroom teacher and full time librarian is entitled to at least a thirty minute daily planning period free from the instruction and supervision of students. Each school district may set flexible or rotating schedules for the implementation of this duty free planning period. Implementation may not, however, result in a lengthened school day.

The legislation includes provisions for colleges and universities to create alternative teacher preparation programs that are not nationally accredited. Such programs must, however, provide specifically mandated evidence of effectiveness.

The State Board of Education must review educator preparation programs at least once every five years.
The SDE must provide each teacher preparation program with information regarding the performance of its graduates. The programs are required to protect the confidentiality of the data, and the information is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

To provide for accountability in teacher preparation programs, both traditional and alternative, the legislation creates the South Carolina Teacher Preparation Report Card to examine the number of students completing the program, the performance of teacher candidates on basic skills examinations, and the effectiveness of the programs’ graduates in the classroom setting.

The existing teacher satisfaction survey currently administered is now statutorily required. Results must be complied, analyzed, and reported for each school and district. This data should be shared with policy makers on a yearly basis, and the Department will publish those results on its website.


Enhanced Accountability

Assistance for students in underperforming schools

The legislation reinforces accountability act provisions regarding assistance for struggling schools or districts.
Local school boards with below average or unsatisfactory performance records are required to establish renewal plans that must be approved by the State Board of Education. These plans must include professional growth plans for teachers and principals. A report on the assistance provided to the schools must be provided to the General Assembly on a yearly basis. Stakeholder groups that include mental health, social services, and law enforcement must be asked for input into renewal plans.

When a school receives an overall rating of unsatisfactory for three out of four years, the school is considered to be ‘chronically underperforming’ and one of the following must occur:
(1) the school will be reconstituted immediately after the end of the school year in which the annual report is published; and:
(a) the State Superintendent shall make all personnel decisions for the reconstituted school and shall have the authority to determine whether to terminate the principal, faculty, and staff;
(b) the State Superintendent of Education shall hire the new principal and staff for the reconstituted school if necessary; and
(c) the department shall contract with a public or nonprofit entity that has a proven record of success in working with underperforming schools and districts. The entity shall use research based strategies to assist schools with their operations and oversee the administration of the school until the overall rating of the school improves; provided, if the overall rating does not improve within three years then the school either must be restarted under the management of a high performing charter management organization selected by the State Superintendent of Education or must be governed by the South Carolina Transformation School District, and all state, local and federal funds generated by the students must follow the students to the charter management organization or to the South Carolina Transformation School District;
(2) the school must be closed and restarted under the management of an existing charter school authorizer or a nonprofit educational management organization selected by the State Superintendent; provided, if the school is a Title I school, the Department of Education will award competitive grants as authorized under federal law to support these new schools and all state, local and federal funds generated by the students follow the students to the charter school authorizer or to the educational management organization. The authorizer or management organization has the authority to terminate any and all employees of the school and hire employees at its discretion; or
(3) the school must be closed and its students must be transferred to higher performing schools in the district.

The South Carolina Transformation School District is established as part of State Department of Education to operate and manage unsatisfactory schools.

The Superintendent of Education is directed to utilize lower child to teacher ratios as a strategy to assist chronically unsatisfactory schools.

The legislation establishes a school district consolidation protocol which provides that, before August 1, 2023, local school districts whose kindergarten through grade twelve student population is less than one thousand, and where greater than fifty percent of the students attend schools whose report card ratings are below average or unsatisfactory, shall be merged with a district in the same county in which it is located.

School Board Ethics Provisions

The State Board of Education must adopt a model code of ethics that shall be adopted by local districts by July 1, 2020.

A person may not serve on a local school board if a family member is employed by the district as a superintendent, principal, assistant principal, or member of the district administrative staff. This requirement may be waived for districts with a student population under 3,000.

School board members may not their position for personal or family advantage. Expectations for board members are codified.

The State Ethics Act, including the requirement to file a statement of economic interest, is applied to local board members.

Local school boards must adopt an annual training programs for members that includes instruction on school law, ethics, school finance, nepotism, board relations, and conflicts of interest. Completion of the training must be reported to, and retained by the State Department of Education.

In addition to other statutory authority relating to the removal of officers, the Governor may remove a member of a school district board of trustees in a case involving fraud, misappropriation of funds, nepotism, violation of election or procurement laws, or a combination of these.

A protocol is established that allows board members to be removed by the Governor if the district loses accreditation for school governance reasons.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Federal Programs and Grants

The Legislative Audit Council is directed to study publish a report by August 1, 2020, identifying and detailing federal funding streams for programs and grants in elementary and secondary education in this state in total and breaking out the cost of overhead, compliance, and reporting incurred by the State Department of Education, school districts, and local schools.

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