South Carolina Education Policy Update

August 26, 2019

Pardon Our Dust

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The first regular session of the 123rd South Carolina General Assembly adjourned on May 9, 2019 with legislators returning two weeks later for a special session to pass the largest budget in state history. The budget package included salary raises for the state’s teachers and most state employees, as well as $150 million to maintain college tuition rates, $40 million for a new voting system, and $25 million in relief to farmers recovering from Hurricane Florence.

Education reform was the focus of the legislative session, as Gov. Henry McMaster promised. With the support of the governor, the House quickly passed its education reform proposals, titled the “SC Career Opportunity and Access for All Act.” The House version of the bill includes salary increases for new teachers, the creation of a committee to monitor the state education and workforce pipeline to continually determine the education and training levels required by state employers, and will require a career pathways system to align K-12 and college education with state and local workforce needs. Class size, teacher retention, and funding models remain topics of discussion among legislators.

Senate leaders chose to take a slower approach and tour the state to seek comment from teachers, parents, students, and the public. As a result, the Senate Education Committee has yet to send a final proposal to the floor for discussion, but the committee is expected to move quickly in January.

In May, the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office (RFA) also released an economic analysis and report on the state education funding model as part of the governor’s efforts to tackle education reform. The report makes no recommendation regarding staff to student ratios; instead, RFA seeks input from the state’s teachers before making a recommendation. Comments on the RFA report may be sent to Legislators hope the report can foster discussion over the off-season, and prepare the legislature for action in January.