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The Weekly Rewind – Week of February 2nd

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
February 5, 2021

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3609, a joint resolution restoring teacher salary step increases that were suspended by Act 135 of 2020, enacted by the General Assembly due to financial uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 virus. The legislation appropriates $50 million dollars from the 2018-2019 Contingency Reserve Fund to provide for teacher step increases for the 2020-2021 School Year.

The House amended, passed and sent to the Senate H. 3589, a bill that would re-designate certain schools from their previous designation as a “schools of choice” to “schools of innovation.” This designation would relieve a school from following certain statutes, rules, and regulations in allowance and recognition of nontraditional approaches. The bill outlines the steps a school district must follow to achieve the status of exemption. In order to earn this exemption, a district must identify each law, regulation, and policy from which the school is requesting exemption. The bill would allow that public school districts may establish multiple (but a limited number) schools of innovation. (Districts may not name all schools in a district as a school of innovation). This has to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the local board and a two-thirds vote of the State Board of Education. Any change in a request that is pending approval by, or has been approved by, the State Board of Education must be made in the same manner as provided for initial requests. The designation must be renewed every four years through the same process as for the initial approval.

The House passed as amended and sent to the Senate H. 3613, revisions to the Read to Succeed Act. This bill (involving early literacy and numeracy screening assessment instruments) would amend the Read to Succeed Act (Act 284 of 2014) and contains most of the changes that were adopted last year by the House in the Omnibus Education Reform and H. 4761 of 2020. The bill would provide that the SC Department of Education shall approve no more than five reliable early literacy and numeracy screeners. A district would administer the universal screening process in the first “thirty days of the school year and repeat, if and only if, the student demonstrates literacy and numeracy deficiencies at midyear and at the end of the school year to determine student progression in reading and numeracy in kindergarten through third grade.” Waivers can be granted for alternative instruments.

In addition, the bill creates the South Carolina Reading Panel, and determines the composition, functions, and duties of the panel. Moreover, the bill establishes definitions concerning the universal screening processes used in public school districts for students experiencing academic or social-emotional difficulties and provides that all related screening tools must be capable of identifying students with dyslexia or other reading disorders. Reading interventions must be evidence-based, follow a multi-tiered system of support, and holds that professional development on reading practices be scientifically based. The bill clarifies that district reading plans must provide inappropriate in class interventions.

Also, regarding the Read to Succeed Office, the bill revises the requirements concerning coursework necessary for literacy add-on endorsements and revises requirements for professional development for certified reading/literacy coaches and literacy teachers. The coursework must be founded on scientifically based reading practices and evidence-based interventions, including how to use the data to identify struggling readers and inform instruction).
The bill also revises the requirements for screening and diagnostic assessments and interventions relating to mandatory student retention provisions of the Read to Succeed Act, to revise criteria for retention and exemptions from retention, to eliminate an appeals process, and to revise criteria for intensive instructional services and support provided to retained students. The bill would remove the requirement that reading/literacy coaches be employed in all elementary schools, revise requirements concerning the roles and functions of reading/literacy coaches, and provide certain reading and literacy support services to schools identified as having certain levels of lowest achievement on English/language arts summative assessments by third grade students. Section ten clarifies the roles and requirements of reading coaches. SDE will hire reading coaches for schools where more than one-third of third-grade students score at the lowest achievement level on SC READY. Reading coaches will be employees of the Department, but assigned to specific schools. The remaining schools may use state appropriated funds for reading coaches, reading interventionists (who can assist with instructing students), or scientifically-based reading professional development. The Department must monitor their spending, and schools that do not use the funds for these specified purposes will lose reading coach funding.

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3586, a bill establishing a Department of Insurance Fraud Division. The legislation provides for the transfer of insurance fraud duties and obligations from the Attorney General’s Office and houses them in a new Fraud Division established within the Department of Insurance.

The House passed and sent the Senate H. 3222, a bill enabling the Department of Health and Environmental Control to suspend a waste tire processing facility from accepting waste tires when it is determined that the capacity at the facility is exceeded. In an effort to address concerns dealing with the incompliance of permitted capacity for recycling tire facilities, the bill outlines steps along with timeframes to allow a facility to come into compliance prior to being suspended. The bill also requires DHEC to maintain a list of facilities known as the Waste Tire Rebate Facility List. The Waste Tire Rebate Facility List shall include permitted waste tire processing facilities. In addition, DHEC has the ability to remove any facility whose permit has been revoked or suspended, until the permit has been reinstated.

The House amended, passed and sent H. 3071, a Joint Resolution that creates the Equine Industry Support Measures Study Committee. This Resolution examines the potential for further growth of the equine industry and the resulting economic impact. The committee shall study the potential for equine business growth in South Carolina, outlining steps to encourage growth, as well as identifying any barriers that exist and how to eliminate or reduce them. The committee is to compare South Carolina’s incentives and barriers to other Southeast states (as well as nationally). The study shall investigate any fees, assessments, reimbursements, as well as mills and feed. This seven-member study committee will include two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the chairman of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee; two members of the Senate appointed by the chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee; two members from the equine industry, with one appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and one appointed by the President of the Senate, upon the recommendation of the South Carolina Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association; and the Commissioner of Agriculture, or his designee. The study committee shall provide a report outlining its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by February 15, 2022. The study committee dissolves upon receipt of its report.

The House passed and sent to the Senate H. 3054, a bill relating to the Department of Natural Resources’ mailing requirements for the Notice of Suspension of Privileges. Currently, when licenses are suspended, the Notice of Suspension is sent by certified mail to ensure that the notice was received and acknowledged. This bill allows the department to mail notifications through the first class mail service. As a result, the change in this requirement provides a cost savings to the agency.

The House passed and sent the Senate H. 3056, a bill that implements recommendations from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s 2018 study of the Department of Natural Resources to modernize statutes. As a result, the bill deletes outdated Department of Natural Resources commissions and fish and game clubs that are no longer part of the laws and practices of the Department. The bill also deletes language regarding Legislative Delegations appointing game warden for counties, such as, but not limited to, the Prestwood Lake Wildlife Refuge Board, Catawba-Wateree Fish and Game Commission, Cherokee Fish and Game Club, Darlington County Advisory Fish and Game Commission, and the Lee County Legislative Delegation to Protect Fish and Game in Lee County.

The House passed and sent the Senate H. 3059, a bill that repeals provisions relating to the authority of the Department of Natural Resources to issue Heritage Trust Revenue Bonds. In 2006, the General Assembly allowed the Department to issue bonds against the Heritage Trust Account. Those bonds that were issued are now retired and the authority to issue the bonds had a sunset date of 2008. This bill just deletes that authority language. This bill does not affect the Heritage Trust Fund, which is still in effect.

The House passed and sent to the Senate H. 3740, a local bill that went without reference. The bill relates to the Lancaster County Commission for Higher Education and would provide for the Commission’s receipt and administration of Lancaster county millage-derived funds, which must be set aside and used exclusively for the benefit of the University of South Carolina, Lancaster.

In addition, the bill would provide that the Dean of the University of South Carolina Lancaster must be an ex officio member of the commission. The bill also clarifies the commission’s role relating to the offering of post-secondary courses, removes certain archaic language, and requires the Commission to submit an annual report to Lancaster County Council.

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3585, a bill implementing regular updates and revisions for Department of Insurance provisions.

The House approved and sent the Senate H. 3587, a bill providing a technical correction in reduction in insurance coverage provisions.

The Weekly Rewind – Week of February 25th

Nathan’s News readers are aware that I regularly share a “Week in Review” update which is prepared by legislative staff. It’s straight forward, no spin, not partisan…just the facts.

If you want a more personable read, be sure to read a similar update that I write each week in The New Irmo News. Representative Huggins and I rotate weeks throughout the session so that the entire Irmo/Chapin community can stay informed!

*To read the text of any bill mentioned below, please visit www.scstatehouse.gov and enter the bill number in the search box *

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
February 28, 2020

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4431, a bill to enact the “SOUTH CAROLINA BUSINESS LICENSE TAX STANDARDIZATION ACT” as a means of: reducing the complexity of complying with the business license taxes imposed by counties and municipalities by bringing statewide uniformity to the deadlines, application forms, and various other parts of the process; enhancing convenience for businesses by allowing them to pay taxes owed in multiple jurisdictions using a one-stop-shopping online portal; and, allowing counties and municipalities to receive the full amounts they are owed for business licenses without subtracting the portion that has been charged in fees by third parties collecting the taxes. The legislation imposes statewide standardization upon many aspects of the business license taxes imposed by counties and municipalities, including: a single timeline for issuing and renewing licenses and imposing penalties; standards for computing taxes based upon the gross income of the business; a uniform business license application established and provided by the Director of the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office; a protocol for issuing refunds to businesses; requirements for taxing jurisdictions to make use of the Standardized Business License Class Schedule as recommended by the Municipal Association of South Carolina and adopted by the Director of the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office; requirements for the Municipal Association to determine and revise this Standardized Business License Class Schedule every even year using the latest available nationwide Internal Revenue Service statistics for the calculation of profitability of businesses and using the latest business classification codes of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS); and, a protocol that allows county and city councils to approve reasonable subclassifications. Provisions are made for a centralized online portal hosted and managed by the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office which businesses may use to pay the various license taxes imposed in multiple jurisdictions. In addition to allowing a payment through the business license tax portal, a taxing jurisdiction shall allow a taxpayer to file and pay its business license tax in person at a location within the taxing jurisdiction, by telephone, or by mail. The legislation imposes a prohibition on a private third-party assessing or collecting business license taxes or requiring businesses to remit confidential tax data on behalf of a taxing jurisdiction. Restrictions are imposed on how a taxing jurisdiction may contract with a third party to assist in the collection of business license taxes. The legislation disallows arrangements where a private sector auditing firm or other third party is paid on a contingency fee or success basis. Enforcement measures are provided which authorize the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs award to civil penalties to taxpayers for violations. The legislation provides an exemption from business license taxes for charitable organizations that covers their nonprofit activities.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4761, a bill providing for “SOUTH CAROLINA READ TO SUCCEED ACT” ENHANCEMENTS that emphasize early intervention for students who are having difficulty learning to read so that they can receive needed instruction before reaching the time when a low score on a literacy assessment can require a student to repeat the third grade. Under the legislation, 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 Act provisions are revised to require that districts provide appropriate in-class intervention and at least thirty minutes of supplemental intervention by certified teachers who have a literacy add on endorsement until all students are at grade level. School districts must offer a summer reading camp as intervention for any student enrolled in the first or second grade who is substantially not demonstrating proficiency in reading, based upon the universal screening process. The legislation replaces the current “Not Met 1” benchmark for student retention, and provides, instead that a student must be retained in the third grade if the student fails to demonstrate reading proficiency at the end of the third grade as indicated by scoring at the lowest achievement level on the state summative English/language arts assessment which indicates that the student needs substantial academic support to be prepared for the next grade level. Districts are encouraged to develop policies for intensive support and retention of students in kindergarten through second grade if it is determined to be in the student’s best interest. The reading portfolio exemption from 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 third grade students score at the lowest achievement level on the state English/language arts assessment. Early childhood, elementary, and special education teacher candidates must pass a test on reading instruction and intervention before they can be certified. The Commission on Higher Education and the Learning Disorders Taskforce are charged with examining the effectiveness of teacher education programs with regard to diagnosing and assisting students with reading difficulties.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3328, a bill revising SCHOOL LUNCH provisions. The legislation provides that students eligible for free and reduced meal benefits must be offered the same federally reimbursable meal as students not eligible for these federal free and reduced meal provisions. Federally reimbursable meals must be offered even if the student owes money for previous meals. Schools that offer food and beverages separate from federally reimbursable meals may not allow students to accrue a balance when purchasing items, and only may accept cash payment or allow funds to be electronically drawn from a prepaid balance. A school or school district may not invoke penalties for failing to pay for a school lunch, such as prohibiting students from attending field trips, participating in graduation or other recognition ceremonies, or attending other academic-related activities. The State Department of Education is charged with developing and providing a model policy and template to each school district regarding the collection of school meal debt.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4765, a bill imposing LIMITATIONS ON COLLECTING SCHOOL MEAL PROGRAM DEBTS. The legislation prohibits a public school or school district from using a debt collection service to collect debts owed on a school lunch or breakfast account of a student. A public school or school district may not assess or collect any interest, fees, or other such monetary penalties for outstanding debts on student school lunch or breakfast accounts.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4758, a bill providing authority for ALTERNATIVE PROGRAMS FOR EDUCATOR PREPARATION AND CERTIFICATION as a means of addressing current teacher shortages. Under the legislation, educator preparation programs housed within an institution of higher education may submit a separate and distinct educator preparation program for alternative preparation to the State Board of Education for approval. The board shall promulgate regulations concerning the granting of approval, cyclical review, and revocation of approval for alternative educator preparation programs. The State Department of Education is charged with providing each college of education and state-approved educator preparation program with information evaluating the performance its graduates on a yearly basis so that this information may be used to improve education services.

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.

[Read more…]

The Weekly Rewind – January 12th

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HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
January 12, 2018

Lawmakers returned to the State House on January 9, 2018, to commence the second regular session of the 122nd South Carolina General Assembly.

The House of Representatives took up the Governor’s vetoes on H.3720, the General Appropriation Bill for the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET. In addressing vetoes, legislators had to contend with a revenue shortfall that has left the state with approximately $34 million less in non-recurring spending than the estimates from the Board of Economic Advisers that were used in approving the budget. The House voted to sustain some of the Governor’s vetoes, including $4.9 million in nonrecurring revenue allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services to support various medical contracts. The House voted to override vetoes on other items, including Education Lottery Funds devoted to leasing and purchasing new school buses in the amount of $17.5 million from the Lottery Expenditure Account and $3 million in unclaimed prize money along with whatever balance may remain in the unclaimed prize fund. Vetoes that the House voted to override have been sent to the Senate for consideration.

The House approved S.456, addressing SOUTH CAROLINA TECHNICAL COLLEGE MOTORCYCLE SAFETY COURSES, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides that a person who holds a motorcycle beginner’s permit who has failed the motorcycle driver’s license test three or more times must successfully complete a South Carolina Technical College motorcycle safety course, or its equivalent, in lieu of passing the motorcycle driver’s license test, in order to obtain a motorcycle license. All courses must be at least eight hours in length and be taught by an instructor accredited through a training program in which the procedures for accreditation are equivalent to those set forth in ‘Manual of Rules and Procedures’ published by the National Safety Council. All courses must include successful completion of an examination equivalent to the Department of Motor Vehicles motorcycle skills test. The legislation also provides that any driver with a Class M (motorcycle) endorsement who has accumulated driver’s license points shall have the number of his points reduced by four upon proving to the satisfaction of the Department of Motor Vehicles that he has successfully completed an accredited South Carolina Technical College motorcycle safety course or its equivalent. No person’s points may be reduced more than one time in any three year period using these provisions.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4036, a bill AUTHORIZING THE STATE INSPECTOR GENERAL TO CONDUCT FINANCIAL AUDITS OF LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS at the request of state or local public officials who have complaints of possible school district financial mismanagement. The legislation expands the State IG’s authority to perform government audits by providing that the State Inspector General, for good cause shown upon request of any state or local public official or entity, may conduct financial and forensic audits of school districts. Audits must be completed and copies furnished to the relevant parties at the conclusion of the fiscal year following when the request was made, unless the State Inspector General explains in writing to the requesting parties compelling reasons why the audit cannot be completed during this time frame.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

signs

With the November election less than a month away, inevitably people start to ask me “Nathan, who should I vote for?”

Obviously, they don’t recall that I have made it a practice not to endorse in local races . Instead, I believe our community has many opportunities to meet and learn about these candidates and can decide on your own who to support.

For example, you can catch candidates for County Council visiting the Ballentine Dutch Fork Civic Association or all the School Board candidates at this year’s voting forums . Many officials and candidates attended the 9th Annual Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast while some attend Irmo and Chapin chamber events . In the next few weeks, my guess is you’ll receive a lot of literature from these candidates and maybe even a visit at your front door step from a candidate or two.

Take time to read, learn and even ask questions before deciding whom to support. While some in the community will show up to vote (which, based on low turnout is actually more than the majority of people in the state will do), others will choose to display signs, make calls, and contribute financially. Whatever level of support you wish to give, do so in favor of your candidate and not campaigning negatively about other candidates.

Please look at the issues, the job and the candidates qualifications. If there are votes some officials have cast that you don’t like, that’s a legitimate concern. If there’s an issue one candidate addresses more than another candidate, maybe that’s your guy/gal. But please don’t succumb to personal vendettas or he said/she said spats that do nothing but divert attention from building up our community. And PLEASE don’t resort to vandalizing/removing signs of an opponent. We’re better than that in Chapin and Irmo.

One last thing that’s been on my mind for sometime is this – our school board currently has no minority representation. With seven members chosen to represent a district that has a diverse population from elementary schools to our high schools, shouldn’t our board be more diverse?

I hope you’ll get out and vote Tuesday, November 4th. Please check your Voter Registration Card to be sure you go to the correct precinct and remember to bring a photo ID with you to the polls!

Five years later…Kennerly Road/Coogler Road Intersection

Five years ago, I posted this article . Today, The State reports improvements are coming – as a result of the “Penny Tax”.

From The State…

Drivers in Richland County could see the first road improvement projects funded by a local sales tax completed by year’s end.

Meeting in Clemson for a two-day planning retreat, Richland County Council members seemed eager to get started on six intersection improvement projects outlined by transportation director Rob Perry.

The $15 million in construction could involve enhancements for pedestrians and cyclists at the intersections as well, said Perry and his deputy, Chris Gossett.

“I’m ready,” several members chimed in after Perry asked for an endorsement.

First, the county must resolve a protest over the hiring of a project management firm brought by the second-place finisher. Chairman Norman Jackson said he’s hopeful there will be a resolution soon.

The six intersection improvements would be the first tangible sign of progress after voters approved a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax for transportation improvements to roads, bus service and trails.

Until now, Perry has said unidentified dirt-road paving and suburban resurfacing projects probably would be the first projects completed. Thursday, he said it looks like those projects will proceed alongside the intersection improvements.

He’s also moving forward on a list of sidewalk improvements in coordination with the S.C. Department of Transportation.

He said the county’s project management firm, ICA Engineering, had suggested moving forward on the intersections as well.

Perry said each intersection will be studied to settle on the changes needed, but they would include such things as adding turns lanes, straightening or widening lanes, adding bike lanes and sidewalks, or putting in pedestrian signals.“We would expect at least one of the six to be completed by the end of the year,” Perry said.The intersections are:

To read more, click here

Romney’s visit to North Charleston (Boeing)

It was an honor to again welcome Governor Romney to our state. This time in North Charleston. Joining Governor Romney on his visit today was Governor Tim Pawlenty . After my opening remarks, State Treasurer Curtis Loftis introduced the man I believe will be our next President.

From the Associated Press –

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, fresh from picking up former rival Tim Pawlenty’s endorsement, criticized the Obama administration’s links to organized labor, arguing that a National Labor Relations Board’s complaint against Boeing is White House payback to unions.

Touring the aeronautics giant’s new $750 million plant in South Carolina, Romney drew loud applause from about 60 people in the North Charleston City Council Chambers when he suggested that any stimulus package to boost the economy should include legislation telling the NLRB to drop its Boeing complaint. The package also should block the agency from pursing similar action elsewhere in the country.

The agency has filed a complaint against Boeing alleging that the plant, which opened earlier this summer in North Charleston, was built in violation of labor laws to avoid unionized labor in Washington state. The NLRB claims Boeing opened the new plant to punish Washington state workers for past strikes and wants the company to return the work to Washington.

“It’s an egregious example of political payback where the president is able to pay back the unions for the hundreds of millions of dollars they have put into his campaigns at the expense of American workers,” Romney said.

Read more…

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

Drive anywhere in the community and you’re bound to see signs…everywhere. Believe it or not, I’ve been asked “where’s yours?” and figured I better address that before people get too confused.

I’m on the ballot again in November and am unopposed. This humbles me and also allows me time to direct more of my attention to my family, my paying job, and Gamecock football 😉

If you’re not sure who you get to vote for; you’re not alone. Many get confused because signs pop up all over the place and many times are not in the area where voters live and can vote for that candidate. Why you may ask? Because campaigns are often about “name I.D.” If there is a busy intersection, thoroughfare or highway within a mile of the boundaries; candidates will place signs there in hopes that commuter traffic may be actual voters that can vote for them on election day.

(Note: not to add to the confusion but the photo above is NOT from our community. If I had done that someone would have tried to read into it one way or another about whom I may be supporting. Been there, done that. I don’t endorse locally but I do endorse statewide and nationally if I feel strongly enough about a candidate. Why is this my policy? I feel our community has ample opportunity to meet the local candidates….mayors, county councils, city council, school board. When it comes to statewide and national races, our community doesn’t get to see or visit with those candidates as much. It’s those times when I’ll share my opinion.)

For those new to the area, a brief look at my service can be found on the Meet Nathan page. Most recently, I’ve learned that I again received very high ratings from the Palmetto Family Alliance , the NRA, , the SC Chamber of Commerce , and am “Green Approved” again by the Conservation Voters of South Carolina .

One group that watches tax payers dollars very closely, SC Club for Growth, has not issued their 2010 scorecards but their earlier ones have me always near the top. I hope to keep my consecutive streak of “Friend of the Taxpayer” going but after my vote on the cigarette tax , I’m thinking that streak may stop at 6 for 6.

There are other individuals and groups who have endorsed me but I’m not sure if endorsements really matter as much to voters.

What I think matters most are the issues, the service/responsiveness an official or candidate provides, and the accessibility and willingness to stay involved in the community. As my consultant always said “elected officials who stay in touch year round – and not just at election time – have a much better chance of doing the job they were sent to do.”

I hope I’ve earned your support again this November. I never take it for granted….but I do try to stretch a dollar and not put up signs when others need the space for their races.

Thank you for the privilege you gave me in 2005 and the continued support and advice you give me every day!

Our District Five School Board Candidates

Apologies for no posts since the August Community Update . I’m catching up on the news after being away and noticed we had eight members of the Lexington/Richland School District Five community offer their services to the community.

I know most of them and feel each brings his/her own strength to the Board .

As you know, I do not endorse in local community races but I do wish each candidate the best and hope the candidates will focus on the positives they would bring to office and avoid the tone that seems to always be in SC races.

Five Candidates offering for Richland side (2 seats):

Kevin Alberse, Irmo
David Hawkins, Irmo
Kim Murphy, Chapin
Bruce Reeves, Irmo
Ed White, Irmo (incumbent)

Three candidates offering for Lexington side (2 seats):

Ellen Baumgardner, Columbia (incumbent)
Roberta Ferrell, Columbia (incumbent)
Jim Turner, Columbia

The election will be held November 2nd. Be sure you’re registered to vote and are listed in your correct precinct: click here !

I would like to publicly thank Carol Sloop for her years of service to the community! Carol is not offering for re-election and I wish her well as she focuses on herself after giving so many hours and service to the Board and Community!

It's only Rock-n-Roll…isn't it?

In case you’re not sure, we’re less than a month away from one of the “most important elections” ever.

I’m reminding you because, since SC is seen as a state that’s not really in play (McCain should carry the state), you haven’t seen too many ads flooding the airwaves like the folks are seeing in the “swing states”.

I put the phrase “most important election” in quotes because….well….it seems like every election is labeled like that. At least this year, I think we have an election that will certainly change history. Whether Republicans win or Democrats win, our country will either have the first African-American President or the first female Vice-President. Both are pretty big news, if you ask me.

But tonight’s post isn’t about labels like black/white, male/female, Republican/Democrat though. We have enough labels in the world that separate us already.

One label I had to write about though is the ever present record-label and the music industry. I mean, forget the issues! Don’t we all just really listen to the songs that play when candidates walk out on stage and base our decision then who our guy (gal) is?

I mean, I’m the biggest Boston fan you’ll find; so when Huckabee played “More than a Feeling”, that was it! He was my man! But wait….then Tom Scholz got upset and told Huckabee to stop playing and using his song. Huckabee couldn’t really be my man if Boston didn’t like him, right? [Read more…]