Education reform: Senators discuss how to handle underperforming SC schools

Education reform: Senators discuss how to handle underperforming SC schools
SC State House

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -Monday, South Carolina senators discussed how to address underperforming schools across the state. Statewide education reform is still at the forefront – even with lawmakers technically on summer vacation.

The massive 84-page education reform bill passed the House back in March, and while Governor Henry McMaster urged senators to do the same, Senate leaders say they saw room for improvement. There have been about a dozen meetings held through the Senate Education Committee over the last six months to review the proposal, which addresses higher teacher pay, school consolidation and increased access to technical schools among several other points of interests in schools across the state.

Monday’s meeting focused on accountability and underperforming schools.

Ke'Von Singleton is a member of the Lowcountry Students for Political Action.

He says, “It’s been said, that my generation and generations after us are lost, they can’t find us and we’re not listening to them but we’re not a lost generation. We are a generation seeking to be found and we can’t come and just come out and say ‘here we are’ because we haven’t been given a map to success.”

State Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman, says, "We're building a piece of legislation that will have a huge impact on all facets of education in South Carolina. Our goal is to have every student in the state prepared when they graduate from high school ready for college and a career."

After Monday’s meeting, the Senate Education Committee posted a new 22-page document highlighting all of the proposed changes, including new incentives for the highest performing schools like reduced reporting requirements.

Spearman, says she’s hoping for a better protocol for when and how the state should take over struggling school districts.

"We are talking about what do we do when we know that schools are low performing or when a district is low performing. How do we intervene,” Spearman asked.

Trevor Etminan of Dorchester County was also at the meeting. He was one of the many representatives there on behalf of the group SC for Ed.

“What’s unfortunate is the way that we’re defining how schools even come to be under performing in the first place. For instance we determine that primarily based on test scores, but unfortunately the tests don’t give teachers meaningful points of data that can be used to inform instruction so that we can improve classroom outcomes,” Etminan said.

The subcommittee is planning to hold a final meeting before the summer ends to vote on an updated version on the bill.

Senators are hoping to have the bill on the Senate floor and ready for debate once the 2020 session begins in January.

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