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H 4268
Session 116 (2005-2006) 

H 4268 General Bill, By Rice and Kennedy
 A BILL TO AMEND CHAPTER 17, TITLE 59, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976,
 RELATING TO SCHOOL DISTRICTS, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE CREATION OF A STATEWIDE
 SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT, ITS GOVERNANCE, AND ITS POWERS AND DUTIES; TO
 PROVIDE FOR FORTY LOCAL COUNCILS AND THEIR POWERS AND DUTIES; TO PROVIDE THAT
 THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION SHALL PROMULGATE REGULATIONS; TO PROVIDE THAT ALL
 ASSETS AND LIABILITIES BECOME THOSE OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT; TO
 PROVIDE THAT THE DISTRICT SHALL DEFEND CERTAIN ACTIONS OR PROCEEDINGS ON
 BEHALF OF CERTAIN TEACHERS; TO PROVIDE FOR THE REISSUANCE OF CERTAIN BONDS
 PURSUANT TO CERTAIN CONDITIONS; TO PROVIDE FOR CREDIT TO BE GIVEN IN AMERICAN
 SIGN LANGUAGE; TO ESTABLISH A CHARACTER EDUCATION POLICY; TO PROVIDE FOR
 CERTAIN TEACHER IN-SERVICE TRAINING; AND TO PROVIDE FOR STUDENTS WALKING OR
 BIKING TO SCHOOL; BY ADDING SECTION 59-3-5 SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT THE
 SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION MUST BE APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR UPON THE ADVICE
 AND CONSENT OF THE SENATE; TO AMEND SECTION 1-30-10, RELATING TO DEPARTMENTS
 WITHIN THE EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT THE SUPERINTENDENT OF
 EDUCATION MUST BE APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR; TO AMEND SECTION 1-30-40,
 RELATING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT THE SOUTH
 CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT MUST BE ADMINISTERED AS PART OF THE DEPARTMENT OF
 EDUCATION; TO AMEND SECTION 1-11-310, RELATING TO SCHOOL BUSES, SO AS TO
 CHANGE A REFERENCE FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO THE SOUTH
 CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT; BY ADDING ARTICLE 11 IN CHAPTER 36 OF TITLE 12 SO AS
 TO IMPOSE AN ADDITIONAL STATEWIDE SALES TAX EQUAL TO THREE PERCENT FOR THE
 SUPPORT OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT; BY ADDING SECTION 11-11-155
 ESTABLISHING THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT FUND TO RECEIVE THE REVENUE OF
 THE ADDITIONAL SALES TAX IMPOSED BY THIS ACT; BY ADDING SECTION 12-37-253 SO
 AS TO EXEMPT ALL TAXABLE PROPERTY FROM ALL PROPERTY TAX MILLAGE IMPOSED FOR
 SCHOOL OPERATIONS AND TO PAY TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT THE
 REVENUES OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT FUND, LESS A RESERVE FOR
 SHORTFALLS, FOR THE TAXES NOT COLLECTED BECAUSE OF THE EXEMPTION ALLOWED BY
 THIS NEW SECTION, TO PROVIDE THAT THE FAIR MARKET VALUE OF THIS EXEMPTED
 PROPERTY IS NEVERTHELESS CONSIDERED TAXABLE FOR PURPOSES OF BONDED
 INDEBTEDNESS AND THE INDEX OF TAX PAYING ABILITY AND PROHIBIT THE USE OF THESE
 NEW SALES TAX REVENUES TO SUPPLEMENT OTHER STATE FUNDING FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION;
 BY AMENDING SECTION 6-1-300, RELATING TO DEFINITIONS FOR PURPOSES OF LOCAL
 GOVERNMENT TAXING LIMITS, SO AS TO REDEFINE "POSITIVE MAJORITY" AS A
 TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY OF THE ENTIRE GOVERNING BODY; BY AMENDING SECTION 6-1-320,
 RELATING TO LIMITATIONS ON PROPERTY TAX MILLAGE INCREASES, SO AS TO REQUIRE A
 POSITIVE MAJORITY VOTE FOR ANY REVENUE IN THE MILLAGE RATE UP TO THE INCREASE
 IN THE CONSUMER PRICE INDEX AND TO REQUIRE REFERENDUM APPROVAL FOR INCREASES
 ABOVE THE CONSUMER PRICE INDEX INCREASE; AND TO REPEAL CHAPTER 5, TITLE 59
 RELATING TO THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, CHAPTER 13, TITLE 59 RELATING TO
 COUNTY SUPERINTENDENTS OF EDUCATION, AND CHAPTER 15, TITLE 59, RELATING TO
 COUNTY BOARDS OF EDUCATION AND SECTIONS 59-3-10 AND 59-3-20 AND TO DIRECT THE
 CODE COMMISSIONER TO CHANGE CERTAIN REFERENCES FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF
 EDUCATION AND THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL
 DISTRICT OR THE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION.

   06/01/05  House  Introduced and read first time HJ-104
   06/01/05  House  Referred to Committee on Ways and Means HJ-106



VERSIONS OF THIS BILL

6/1/2005



H. 4268

A BILL

TO AMEND CHAPTER 17, TITLE 59, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO SCHOOL DISTRICTS, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE CREATION OF A STATEWIDE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT, ITS GOVERNANCE, AND ITS POWERS AND DUTIES; TO PROVIDE FOR FORTY LOCAL COUNCILS AND THEIR POWERS AND DUTIES; TO PROVIDE THAT THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION SHALL PROMULGATE REGULATIONS; TO PROVIDE THAT ALL ASSETS AND LIABILITIES BECOME THOSE OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT; TO PROVIDE THAT THE DISTRICT SHALL DEFEND CERTAIN ACTIONS OR PROCEEDINGS ON BEHALF OF CERTAIN TEACHERS; TO PROVIDE FOR THE REISSUANCE OF CERTAIN BONDS PURSUANT TO CERTAIN CONDITIONS; TO PROVIDE FOR CREDIT TO BE GIVEN IN AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE; TO ESTABLISH A CHARACTER EDUCATION POLICY; TO PROVIDE FOR CERTAIN TEACHER IN-SERVICE TRAINING; AND TO PROVIDE FOR STUDENTS WALKING OR BIKING TO SCHOOL; BY ADDING SECTION 59-3-5 SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT THE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION MUST BE APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR UPON THE ADVICE AND CONSENT OF THE SENATE; TO AMEND SECTION 1-30-10, RELATING TO DEPARTMENTS WITHIN THE EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT THE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION MUST BE APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR; TO AMEND SECTION 1-30-40, RELATING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT MUST BE ADMINISTERED AS PART OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; TO AMEND SECTION 1-11-310, RELATING TO SCHOOL BUSES, SO AS TO CHANGE A REFERENCE FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT; BY ADDING ARTICLE 11 IN CHAPTER 36 OF TITLE 12 SO AS TO IMPOSE AN ADDITIONAL STATEWIDE SALES TAX EQUAL TO THREE PERCENT FOR THE SUPPORT OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT; BY ADDING SECTION 11-11-155 ESTABLISHING THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT FUND TO RECEIVE THE REVENUE OF THE ADDITIONAL SALES TAX IMPOSED BY THIS ACT; BY ADDING SECTION 12-37-253 SO AS TO EXEMPT ALL TAXABLE PROPERTY FROM ALL PROPERTY TAX MILLAGE IMPOSED FOR SCHOOL OPERATIONS AND TO PAY TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT THE REVENUES OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT FUND, LESS A RESERVE FOR SHORTFALLS, FOR THE TAXES NOT COLLECTED BECAUSE OF THE EXEMPTION ALLOWED BY THIS NEW SECTION, TO PROVIDE THAT THE FAIR MARKET VALUE OF THIS EXEMPTED PROPERTY IS NEVERTHELESS CONSIDERED TAXABLE FOR PURPOSES OF BONDED INDEBTEDNESS AND THE INDEX OF TAX PAYING ABILITY AND PROHIBIT THE USE OF THESE NEW SALES TAX REVENUES TO SUPPLEMENT OTHER STATE FUNDING FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION; BY AMENDING SECTION 6-1-300, RELATING TO DEFINITIONS FOR PURPOSES OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT TAXING LIMITS, SO AS TO REDEFINE "POSITIVE MAJORITY" AS A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY OF THE ENTIRE GOVERNING BODY; BY AMENDING SECTION 6-1-320, RELATING TO LIMITATIONS ON PROPERTY TAX MILLAGE INCREASES, SO AS TO REQUIRE A POSITIVE MAJORITY VOTE FOR ANY REVENUE IN THE MILLAGE RATE UP TO THE INCREASE IN THE CONSUMER PRICE INDEX AND TO REQUIRE REFERENDUM APPROVAL FOR INCREASES ABOVE THE CONSUMER PRICE INDEX INCREASE; AND TO REPEAL CHAPTER 5, TITLE 59 RELATING TO THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, CHAPTER 13, TITLE 59 RELATING TO COUNTY SUPERINTENDENTS OF EDUCATION, AND CHAPTER 15, TITLE 59, RELATING TO COUNTY BOARDS OF EDUCATION AND SECTIONS 59-3-10 AND 59-3-20 AND TO DIRECT THE CODE COMMISSIONER TO CHANGE CERTAIN REFERENCES FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICT OR THE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION    1.    Chapter 17, Title 59 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:

School Districts

Section 59-17-10.    Every school district is and shall be a body politic and corporate, by the name and style of __________ (a descriptive name may be designated by the county board of education or legislative act) School District No __________ (such number may be designated by the county board of education or legislative act), of __________ County (the name of the county in which the district is situated), the State of South Carolina. In that name it may sue and be sued and be capable of contracting and being contracted with to the extent of its school fund and holding such real and personal estate as it may have or come into possession of, by will or otherwise, or as is authorized by law to be purchased, all of which shall be used exclusively for school purposes.

Section 59-17-20.    Unless otherwise expressly provided, the school districts of the various counties shall not be altered or divided except:

(1)    By act of the General Assembly relating to one or more counties; or

(2)    By authorization of the county boards of education under the following conditions:

(a)    With the written approval of the Senator and the entire house legislative delegation from the county involved;

(b)    Upon a written petition, signed by at least four fifths of the qualified electors embraced within the limits of each of the school districts involved, which shall state plainly to the county board of education the action petitioned and shall also bear the signed certificate of the members of the county board of registration that the number of electors who signed the petition represent at least four fifths of the qualified electors embraced within the limits of each of the school districts involved; or

(c)    Upon the written petition, signed by at least one third of the qualified electors embraced within the limits of each of the school districts involved, which shall state primarily the action petitioned and shall bear the signed certificate of the members of the county board of registration that the number of the electors who signed the petition represent at least one third of the qualified electors embraced within the limits of each of the school districts involved; if such consolidation be approved favorably by a majority of the qualified electors of each of the school districts involved at an election called by the county board of education for the purpose.

Section 59-17-30.    When any school district laid out under Section 59-17-20 shall embrace cities or towns already organized into special school districts in which graded school buildings have been erected by the issue of bonds, by special taxation or by donation, all the territory included in such school district shall bear its just proportion of any tax that may be levied to liquidate such bonds or support the public schools therein.

Section 59-17-40.    All of the school districts of any county may be consolidated into a single school district embracing the entire county in the manner provided by Section 59-17-20 for the alteration or division of school districts, and, whenever territory embraced in two or more counties is proposed to be formed into one school district, such district may be formed by the joint action of the boards of education of the respective counties as provided in Section 59-17-20 for the formation of school districts in a county.

Section 59-17-50.    A county board of education may consolidate schools and school districts, in whole or in part, whenever, in its judgment, such consolidation will promote the best interests of the cause of education in the county.

Section 59-17-60.    When two or more districts are consolidated under the provisions of Section 59-17-50, the county board of education shall file a copy of the order of consolidation in the office of the clerk of court and with the State Board of Education. Such filing shall complete the consolidation of such districts for all intents and purposes.

Section 59-17-70.    Upon consolidation of any two or more school districts, all property, real and personal, and all assets of the districts forming the consolidated school district shall become the property of the consolidated district and all liabilities of the consolidating districts shall become the obligations of such consolidated district. Each such consolidated district shall be a body politic and corporate and its board of trustees shall have such powers as are provided by law.

Section 59-17-80.    Any school district formed of parts of two or more counties under the provisions of Section 59-17-40 may be dissolved in the same manner as that by which it may have been formed, as provided in said section.

Section 59-17-90.    Any two or more school districts in this State may agree to provide special services, make purchases, share equipment, develop curriculum, and interchange pupils or educational services.

Section 59-17-100.    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, each school district of the State shall provide the State Department of Education each year with two copies of its audit report by December first following the close of the fiscal year.

Section 59-17-110.    In the event that any employee of any school district in South Carolina is prosecuted in any action, civil or criminal, or special proceeding in the courts of this State, or of the United States, by reason of any act done or omitted in good faith in the course of his employment, it is made the duty of the school district, when requested in writing by any such public school employee, to appear and defend the action or proceeding in his behalf.

Section 59-17-120.    Bonds issued by a school district under the bonded indebtedness limitation of Article X, Section 15(7)(a) of the South Carolina Constitution and called before the maturity date only may be reissued if the amount required to service the reissuance and to pay off the called bonds does not:

(1)    increase by more than eight percent in any one year the amount of the district's budget needed to service the original bonded indebtedness; or

(2)    exceed the debt limit of the district.

Section 59-17-130.    (A)    The board of trustees of a school district may grant credit as an elective to a pupil who satisfactorily has completed a high school course in American Sign Language.

(B)    The State Board of Education shall establish guidelines on the qualifications needed for those teaching an American Sign Language course and on a recommended course of study to be followed.

(C)    The State Board of Education shall establish a task force to assist in the development of the guidelines pursuant to this section. The task force shall consist of nine members as follows:

(1)    The President of the South Carolina Association of the Deaf, or his designee;

(2)    A parent of a deaf child in a mainstreamed program;

(3)    A parent of a deaf child in a residential program who is currently enrolled at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind;

(4)    A representative from the foreign language department of a college or university in South Carolina;

(5)    The Director of the Interpreter Training Program of Spartanburg Technical College, or his designee;

(6)    A representative from the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind;

(7)    Two instructors of American Sign Language, one of whom must be deaf;

(8)    A representative from the State Department of Education.

The task force shall be established within three months of the effective date of this act and shall terminate upon completion of the guidelines. The State Department of Education shall provide the necessary administrative and research support for the task force. Members of the task force shall serve without compensation.

Section 59-17-135.    (A)    The General Assembly finds:

(1)    the schools of South Carolina must provide the safest environment possible for students to learn;

(2)    teaching positive character traits is essential to improving the learning environment, promoting student achievement, reducing disciplinary problems, and developing civic-minded students;

(3)    schools must be encouraged to instill the highest character and academic excellence in each student, in close cooperation with the student's parents; and

(4)    elected officials, community and civic leaders, business leaders, religious institutions, youth organizations, government, media, and citizens-at-large must be encouraged to become actively involved in creating an atmosphere which encourages positive character development through every sector of the community.

(B)    Each local school board of trustees of the State must develop a policy addressing character education. Any character education program implemented by a district as a result of an adopted policy must, to the extent possible, incorporate character traits including, but not limited to, the following: respect for others, honesty, self-control, cleanliness, courtesy, good manners, cooperation, citizenship, patriotism, courageNext, fairness, kindness, self-respect, compassion, diligence, generosity, punctuality, cheerfulness, patience, sportsmanship, loyalty, and virtue. Local school boards must include all sectors of the community, as referenced in subsection (A)(4), in the development of a policy and in the development of any program implemented as a result of the policy. As part of any policy and program developed by the local school board, an evaluation component must be included.

(C)    Beginning with the 2000-2001 school year, each school district board of trustees is encouraged to require students in the public schools under the jurisdiction of the board to exhibit appropriate conduct, as required in subsection (D) of this section.

(D)    When a public school student is speaking with a public school employee while on school property or at a school sponsored event, the student may be encouraged to address and respond to the public school employee by using terms indicative of or reflecting courtesy and respect for a public school's employees position of authority including, but not limited to, sir, ma'am, thank you, and please.

(E)    Each school district board of trustees is encouraged to provide for incorporation of the requirements of subsections (C) and (D) into any existing discipline policy or policies or any code of conduct of the school district or of each school within its jurisdiction.

(F)    No school board may provide suspension or expulsion from school as an appropriate punishment for violation of subsection (D).

(G)    Upon request, the State Department of Education must provide to the school districts of the State information on currently available programs, curriculums, and resources. In addition, the State Department of Education must provide to the school districts of the State information on best practices and successful programs currently being implemented.

Section 59-17-140.    (A)    Effective July 1, 2001, each school district during annual in-service training shall provide a program of instruction for teachers and administrators in the essentials of constitutional protections and prohibitions as they relate to religion and public school operations. Subjects shall include, but not be limited to:

(1)    student prayers;

(2)    graduation prayers and baccalaureates;

(3)    participation in or encouragement of religious activity by school officials;

(4)    religion in school curriculum;

(5)    religious content in student assignments;

(6)    distribution and use of religious literature;

(7)    student participation in religious events before and after school;

(8)    religious persuasion versus religious harassment;

(9)    religious holidays;

(10)    permitted absences from objectionable lessons in religion;

(11)    released time for religious instruction;

(12)    teaching values;

(13)    religious attire;

(14)    Federal Equal Access Act;

(15)    Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act;

(16)    South Carolina Religious Freedom Act;

(17)    other statutory and constitutional provisions regarding the establishment of religion and free exercise thereof, as they relate to a public school context;

(18)    instruction on how to access legal advice concerning the establishment of religion and free exercise thereof in a public school context; and

(19)    instruction on how to access the State Department of Education's guidelines on religion and the public schools on the department's website.

(B)    Once a teacher or administrator has completed the program of instruction contained in this section, it is not necessary that they participate in the same program of instruction on an annual basis. However, such teachers and administrators who have completed the program of instruction shall annually participate in instruction regarding updates and new developments in the subject matter contained in this section.

Section 59-17-150.    (A)    Municipal and county governing bodies shall work with school districts located in their jurisdictions to identify barriers and hazards to children walking or bicycling to and from school. The municipalities, counties, and districts may develop a plan for the funding of improvements designed to reduce the barriers and hazards identified. The sources of these funds may include federal funding or grants, state funding, or funding from private sources. Nothing in this section shall obligate any agency of federal, state, or local government to provide funding for identified improvements.

(B)    Each school district in this State may establish a Safe Routes to School District Coordinating Committee. The coordinating committee shall include parents, children, teachers, administrators, local law enforcement officials, public health officials, interested citizens, and other persons familiar with the transportation needs of the school district. Duties of the coordinating committee may include gathering information about the schools in the district through surveys and traffic counts; organizing incentive-based events and contests to encourage students to try new modes of transportation; and promoting the program through school newsletters, assemblies, web sites, and other means to reach parents and students.

Any school within the district may establish a Safe Routes to School Team. The team shall include parents, children, teachers, administrators, and neighbors of the school. The team may be expanded to include local law enforcement officials, public health officials, and other persons familiar with the transportation needs of the school. The team shall select a representative to serve on the District Coordinating Committee. Duties of the team may include gathering information about their school through surveys and traffic counts; organizing incentive-based events and contests to encourage students to try new modes of transportation; and promoting the program through school newsletters and other means to reach parents and students.

(C)    The first Wednesday of October of each year is designated as 'Walk or Bicycle with Your Child to School Day' in each school district of this State to promote walking or riding bicycles to school by students, with escorts if necessary, and to identify needed improvements such as sidewalks or safer pedestrian routes not open to vehicular traffic.

"The South Carolina School District

Section 59-17-210.    (A)    The South Carolina School District is created as a body politic and corporate. The South Carolina School District must be considered a local education agency and is eligible to receive federal and other grants available for charter and other schools.

(B)    The geographical boundaries of the South Carolina School District are the same as the boundaries of the State of South Carolina.

(C)    As used in this chapter, 'district' means the South Carolina School District.

Section 59-17-220.    The South Carolina School District must be governed by a state board of trustees consisting of one member from each of the forty local councils and the State Superintendent of Education who must be appointed by the Governor.

Section 59-17-230.    The state board of trustees for the South Carolina School District shall establish:

(1)    the overall budget for the school district;

(2)    the basic statewide standards and curriculum and monitor them to determine necessary changes; and

(3)    a compensation scale and hiring standards for teachers;

(4)    a uniform school starting date and teacher work days; and

(5)    focus committees to monitor certain areas of the district.

Section 59-17-240.    (A)    The State must be divided into forty local council districts, each to serve an approximately equal number of students. Each local council district must be governed by seven members elected from that local council district. An employee of the State Board of Education, State Department of Education, a school district, or a state educational institution must not be elected to a local council. The seven members of each local council shall elect a chairperson from among their membership. Each chairperson shall represent the local council on the state board of trustees.

(B)    Each local council shall:

(1)    establish needs of the local council district and make recommendations to the state board of trustees; and

(2)    oversee the local council district.

(C)    Each local council may appeal for variances to the state board of trustees regarding uniform decisions made by the state board of trustees.

(D)    Each member of a local council shall serve a term of three years, except that, for the initial members, two members of each council shall serve a term of one year, and two other members of each council shall serve a term of two years.

(E)    The boundaries of each of the local council districts are to be determined by the Office of Research and Statistics of the State Budget and Control Board.

(F)    The chairperson of each local council shall report to the State Superintendent of Education.

Section 59-17-250.    The State Board of Education shall promulgate regulations relating to the implementation of this chapter.

Section 59-17-260.    (A)    All property, real and personal, and all assets of the districts must become the property of the South Carolina School District and all liabilities of the districts must become the obligations of the district.

(B)    All general obligation debt of the former school districts of the State is absorbed by the South Carolina School District effective July 1, 2006. Effective beginning with property tax year 2006, the Comptroller General shall calculate and impose a statewide property tax millage on all taxable property sufficient to pay the interest and principal on the general obligation debt assumed by the district. Thereafter, the provisions of Article X, Section 15, of the constitution of this State apply with respect to the authority of the South Carolina School District to incur general obligation debt, and the Comptroller General shall calculate and impose a statewide property tax millage on all taxable property sufficient to pay the interest and principal on the general obligation debt of the district. The State Election Commission shall conduct any referendum required for the South Carolina School District to incur general obligation debt and the district shall reimburse the commission for the expenses of the referendum.

Section 59-17-270.    In the event that any employee of the district is prosecuted in any action, civil or criminal, or special proceeding in the courts of this State, or of the United States, by reason of any act done or omitted in good faith in the course of his employment, it is made the duty of the school district, when requested in writing by the public school employee, to appear and defend the action or proceeding in his behalf.

Section 59-17-280.    Bonds issued by the district under the bonded indebtedness limitation of Article X, Section 15(7)(a) of the South Carolina Constitution and called before the maturity date only may be reissued if the amount required to service the reissuance and to pay off the called bonds does not:

(1)    increase by more than eight percent in any one year the amount of the district's budget needed to service the original bonded indebtedness; or

(2)    exceed the debt limit of the district.

Section 59-17-290.    (A)The board of trustees of the district may grant credit as an elective to a pupil who satisfactorily has completed a high school course in American Sign Language.

(B)    The State Board of Education shall establish guidelines on the qualifications needed for those teaching an American Sign Language course and on a recommended course of study to be followed.

Section 59-17-300.    (A)The General Assembly finds:

(1)    the schools of South Carolina must provide the safest environment possible for students to learn;

(2)    teaching positive character traits is essential to improving the learning environment, promoting student achievement, reducing disciplinary problems, and developing civic-minded students;

(3)    schools must be encouraged to instill the highest character and academic excellence in each student, in close cooperation with the student's parents; and

(4)    elected officials, community and civic leaders, business leaders, religious institutions, youth organizations, government, media, and citizens-at-large must be encouraged to become actively involved in creating an atmosphere which encourages positive character development through every sector of the community.

(B)    The South Carolina School District shall develop a policy addressing character education. The character education program must, to the extent possible, incorporate character traits including, but not limited to, the following: respect for others, honesty, self-control, cleanliness, courtesy, good manners, cooperation, citizenship, patriotism, Previouscourage, fairness, kindness, self-respect, compassion, diligence, generosity, punctuality, cheerfulness, patience, sportsmanship, loyalty, and virtue. The policy and program developed by the district must include an evaluation component.

(C)    The district is encouraged to require students in the public schools to exhibit appropriate conduct, as required in subsection (D) of this section.

(D)    When a public school student is speaking with a public school employee while on school property or at a school sponsored event, the student may be encouraged to address and respond to the public school employee by using terms indicative of or reflecting courtesy and respect for a public school's employees position of authority including, but not limited to, sir, ma'am, thank you, and please.

(E)    The district is encouraged to provide for incorporation of the requirements of subsections (C) and (D) into any existing discipline policy or any code of conduct of the school district.

(F)    The school board may not provide suspension or expulsion from school as an appropriate punishment for violation of subsection (D).

(G)    Upon request, the State Department of Education shall provide to the district information on currently available programs, curriculums, and resources. In addition, the State Department of Education must provide to the school district information on best practices and successful programs currently being implemented.

Section 59-17-310.    (A)    The district during annual in-service training shall provide a program of instruction for teachers and administrators in the essentials of constitutional protections and prohibitions as they relate to religion and public school operations. Subjects must include, but not be limited to:

(1)    student prayers;

(2)    graduation prayers and baccalaureates;

(3)    participation in or encouragement of religious activity by school officials;

(4)    religion in school curriculum;

(5)    religious content in student assignments;

(6)    distribution and use of religious literature;

(7)    student participation in religious events before and after school;

(8)    religious persuasion versus religious harassment;

(9)    religious holidays;

(10)    permitted absences from objectionable lessons in religion;

(11)    released time for religious instruction;

(12)    teaching values;

(13)    religious attire;

(14)    Federal Equal Access Act;

(15)    Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act;

(16)    South Carolina Religious Freedom Act;

(17)    other statutory and constitutional provisions regarding the establishment of religion and free exercise thereof, as they relate to a public school context;

(18)    instruction on how to access legal advice concerning the establishment of religion and free exercise thereof in a public school context; and

(19)    instruction on how to access the State Department of Education's guidelines on religion and the public schools on the department's website.

(B)    Once a teacher or administrator has completed the program of instruction contained in this section, it is not necessary that they participate in the same program of instruction on an annual basis. However, teachers and administrators who have completed the program of instruction annually shall participate in instruction regarding updates and new developments in the subject matter contained in this section.

Section 59-17-320.    (A)    Municipal and county governing bodies shall work with the local council to identify barriers and hazards to children walking or bicycling to and from school. The municipalities, counties, and local councils may develop a plan for the funding of improvements designed to reduce the barriers and hazards identified. The sources of these funds may include federal funding or grants, state funding, or funding from private sources. Nothing in this section shall obligate any agency of federal, state, or local government to provide funding for identified improvements.

(B)(1)    Each local council may establish a Safe Routes to School Coordinating Committee. The coordinating committee shall include parents, children, teachers, administrators, local law enforcement officials, public health officials, interested citizens, and other persons familiar with the transportation needs of the local council district. Duties of the coordinating committee may include gathering information about the schools in the local council district through surveys and traffic counts; organizing incentive-based events and contests to encourage students to try new modes of transportation; and promoting the program through school newsletters, assemblies, websites, and other means to reach parents and students.

(2)    A school within the local council district may establish a Safe Routes to School Team. The team shall include parents, children, teachers, administrators, and neighbors of the school. The team may be expanded to include local law enforcement officials, public health officials, and other persons familiar with the transportation needs of the school. The team shall select a representative to serve on the coordinating committee. Duties of the team may include gathering information about their school through surveys and traffic counts; organizing incentive-based events and contests to encourage students to try new modes of transportation; and promoting the program through school newsletters and other means to reach parents and students.

(C)    The first Wednesday of October of each year is designated as 'Walk or Bicycle with Your Child to School Day' in each school district of this State to promote walking or riding bicycles to school by students, with escorts if necessary, and to identify needed improvements such as sidewalks or safer pedestrian routes not open to vehicular traffic."

SECTION    2.    Chapter 3, Title 59 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Section 59-3-5.    The Superintendent of Education must be appointed by the Governor upon the advice and consent of the Senate. The superintendent shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The superintendent must be a member of the Governor's executive cabinet subject to removal from office by the Governor pursuant to Section 1-3-240. Before entering upon the duties of his office the superintendent shall give bond for the use of the State in the penal sum of five thousand dollars, with good and sufficient sureties, to be approved by the Governor, conditioned for the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of his office. The superintendent shall file the bond with the Secretary of State, who shall record the bond and file it with the State Treasurer."

SECTION    3.    Section 1-30-10(B) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:

"(B)(1)    The governing authority of each department shall be either:

(i)    a director, and in the case of the Department of Commerce and the Department of Education, the secretary and the superintendent, respectively, who must be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, subject to removal from office by the Governor pursuant to provisions of Section 1-3-240; or,

(ii)    a seven member board to be appointed and constituted in a manner provided for by law; or,

(iii)    in the case of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education, the State Commissioner of Agriculture and the State Superintendent of Education, respectively, elected to office under the Constitution of this State.

(2)    In making appointments to boards and for department directors, race, gender, and other demographic factors should be considered to assure nondiscrimination, inclusion, and representation to the greatest extent possible of all segments of the population of this State; however, consideration of these factors in no way creates a cause of action or basis for an employee grievance for a person appointed or for a person who fails to be appointed. The Governor in making the appointments provided for by this section shall endeavor to appoint individuals who have demonstrated exemplary managerial skills in either the public or private sector."

SECTION    4.    Section 1-30-40 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:

"Section 1-30-40.    Effective on July 1, 1993, the following agencies, boards, and commissions, including all of the allied, advisory, affiliated, or related entities as well as the employees, funds, property and all contractual rights and obligations associated with any such agency, except for those subdivisions specifically included under another department, are hereby transferred to and incorporated in and shall be administered as part of the Department of Education:

State Department of Education South Carolina School District, provided for at Section 59-5-10 59-17-210, et seq."

SECTION    5.    Section 1-11-310(E) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:

"(E)    Titles to school buses and service vehicles operated by the State Department of Education South Carolina School District and vehicles operated by the South Carolina Department of Transportation must be retained by those agencies."

SECTION    6.    A.    Chapter 36, Title 12 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Article 11

Additional Sales, Use, and Casual Excise Tax

For the South Carolina School District

Section 12-36-1110.    An additional sales, use, and casual excise tax equal to three percent is imposed on amounts taxable pursuant to this chapter, but this tax does not apply to amounts taxed pursuant to Section 12-36-920, the tax on accommodations for transients."

B.    Chapter 11, Title 11 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Section 11-11-155.    (A)    For each fiscal year, the revenue from the tax imposed pursuant to Section 12-36-1110 is automatically credited to a fund separate and distinct from the state general fund known as the 'South Carolina School District Fund (SCSDF). The Board of Economic Advisors shall account for the SCSDF revenue separately from general fund revenues in reports to the Governor and the General Assembly. No portion of these revenues is credited to the Education Improvement Act (EIA) Fund.

(B)    An unexpended balance in the SCSDF, including the reserve balance required pursuant to subsection (D)(1), at the end of a fiscal year must remain in the SCSDF.

(C)    Earnings on the SCSDF must be credited to the SCSDF.

(D)    Nothing in this section prohibits appropriations by the General Assembly of additional revenues to the SCSDF.

C.    Chapter 37 of Title 12 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Section 12-37-253.    (A)    After all existing exemptions from property taxes imposed from school operations are applied, there is allowed an exemption equal to one hundred percent of the remaining fair market value of all taxable property from property taxes imposed for school operations.

(B)    Except as provided in subsection (D)(1), SCSDF revenue must be distributed to the School District of South Carolina in the manner that the State Treasurer determines appropriate, but such payments must be paid not less than monthly.

(C)    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, property exempted from property taxation in the manner provided in this section is considered taxable property for purposes of bonded indebtedness pursuant to Section 15 of Article X of the Constitution of this State and for purposes of computing the 'index of taxpaying ability' pursuant to Section 59-20-20(3).

(D)(1)    There must be retained in the SCSDF a reserve balance equal to four percent of SCSDF revenues. This reserve balance may be distributed only to offset any actual year-to-year decrease in distributions from the SCSDF, upon certification of such a decrease by the Board of Economic Advisors to the State Treasurer. If the reserve balance is exhausted, further maintenance of the reserve is suspended until such time as the Board of Economic Advisors certifies to the State Treasurer that reinstating the reserve requirement will itself not result in an annual decrease in distribution to the School District of South Carolina.

(2)    Revenues in the SCSDF must not be used to supplant other state funds from whatever source appropriated for K-12 public education.

D.    Section 6-1-300(5) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:

"(5)    'Positive majority' means a vote for adoption by the at least a two-thirds majority of the members of the entire governing body, whether present or not. However, if there is a vacancy in the membership of the governing body, a positive majority vote of the entire governing body as constituted on the date of the final vote on the imposition is required."

E.    Subsections (A) and (C) of Section 6-1-320 of the 1976 Code are amended to read:

"(A)    Notwithstanding Section 12-37-251(E), A local governing body may increase the millage rate imposed for general operating purposes above the rate imposed for such purposes for the preceding tax year only to the extent of the increase in the consumer price index for the preceding calendar year and only if the increase receives a positive majority. However, in the year in which a reassessment program is implemented, the rollback millage, as calculated pursuant to Section 12-37-251(E), must be used in lieu of the previous year's millage rate.

(C)    The millage rate limitation provided for in subsection (A) of this section may be overridden and the millage rate may be further increased only if the increase is approved by the majority of qualified electors voting in a referendum called for this purpose by the local governing body. by a positive majority vote of the appropriate governing body. The vote must be taken at a specially-called meeting held solely for the purpose of taking a vote to increase the millage rate. The governing body must provide public notice of the meeting notifying the public that the governing body is meeting to vote to override the limitation and increase the millage rate. Public comment must be received by the governing body prior to the override vote."

SECTION    7.    Chapters 5, 13, and 15 of Title 59 and Sections 59-3-10 and 59-3-20 of the 1976 Code are repealed.

SECTION    8.    The Code Commissioner is directed to change references from the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education to the South Carolina School District or the Superintendent of Education as necessary after the enactment of this act.

SECTION    9.    This act takes effect upon ratification of the constitutional amendment requiring the Superintendent of Education to be appointed by the Governor and abolishing the State Board of Education, and the exemption allowed pursuant to Section 12-37-253, as added by this act, applies for property tax years beginning after 2005.

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