Indicates Matter Stricken
Indicates New Matter
The Senate assembled at 11:00 A.M., the hour to which it stood adjourned, and was called to order by the ACTING PRESIDENT, Senator JACKSON.
The following remarks by Senator McELVEEN were ordered printed in the Journal of February 26, 2020:
The following remarks by Senator MASSEY were ordered printed in the Journal of March 4, 2020:
Mr. PRESIDENT, I hadn't intended to speak at this point. But I think it is important to make a few comments about not only the hard work that the Senate Education Committee did; but, also the work of the Senate as a whole in this effort. There has been a lot of bipartisan work. It's important to talk about the large number of very good positive things that are in this Bill. And also the very good, large number of things that we as a working Body, with the House of Representatives, have taken over the last year or so. Teachers are experiencing the largest salary increase in 30 years. For teachers in their first few years of work, there is a nine or ten percent increase from the previous year. For those above that, it's a four percent increase. This is in addition to the step increase most of them are getting. That is a step in the right direction. We also increased money for mental health counseling, School Resource Officers, and we put more money in the base student cost. Much of that was overdue. But it is a step in the right direction. This Bill includes a number of significant positive developments. I want to go over those things. But again, this is just one step. There is much more to do.
I've heard over and over that "there may be one good thing in this Bill." Ladies and gentlemen, with this Bill we have allowed students to use Palmetto Fellowship and Life Scholarships at technical colleges. We expanded Palmetto and Life Enhancement scholarships up to $2,500.00 a year for college students majoring in education to help those students in that effort. How is that not a positive thing for teachers and for education in our State?
This Bill requires that for teachers going through the National Board Certification process for the first time, the State will pay their certification costs. This is a significant enticement for people to go into the profession. How is it not a good thing for teachers? This Bill requires that we will double the amount of reimbursement to teachers for out-of-pocket expenses they pay for in their classrooms. We have been allowing a reimbursement of up to $275.00. Now we have doubled that to $550.00 per teacher per year. How is that not a good thing for teachers?
This Bill for the first time requires that school boards have to follow a code of ethics and will require that school board members receive training each year. Is that not also a good thing? That is a positive step in the right direction. It is going to allow the State to have more involvement and provide more assistance to schools in districts that are really struggling. Some of these districts need more help, and this Bill will allow that to happen. If there are school board members perpetuating the problem, such as serving only for the benefits, to go on the trips, etc., this Bill will address that. They shouldn't be serving in that capacity. That is a positive development that has the potential to be transforming for education in our State. That element alone will have a significant impact on those districts. For those students who are struggling to read -- this Bill gives them more assistance. With Senator SETZLER's help, this Bill provides for summer reading camps. This Bill provides for summer reading camps after kindergarten, after first grade, and after second grade -- not just for children after third grade. That is a very good thing for students in South Carolina. It gives them things to do during the summer, as opposed to just watching television. Senator HUTTO has been very interested in Read to Succeed, as have others in this Chamber. We have been failing at that. The goal of that program isn't intended to hold students back. It will help those students by teaching them to read. This Bill addresses that. Because what we have heard is that we have made these grand declarations about Read to Succeed, but we have been sorely failing at that. We have not been giving students what they need. We made the Read to Succeed process better through this Bill. How is that not a good thing for education in South Carolina?
One of the biggest concerns we heard about from teachers, especially at the elementary level, is that teachers just want time to eat. They want a few minutes to themselves to catch up, to go to the restroom, just to eat. This Bill provides that by giving each teacher a 30 minute break just to themselves. That is a significant thing in this Bill.
Another concern we heard is that of the volume of unnecessary paperwork. One of the things we did in this Bill is to reduce some of that paperwork burden. That is a big win for teachers.
We also heard the National Certification Board program had expired and hadn't been reauthorized. This Bill does that, along with the significant salary enhancements to go along with that. How is that not a good thing for education?
Another significant positive of this Bill -- and I give Senator SHEHEEN credit on this -- is the expansion of 4-K to every district in this State. Every district in this State will have state-funded 4-K. That is a big win for early childhood education. Expanding that program statewide and making it state funded is a big win for children in this State. How is that not a good thing for education?
I think it is important that we focus on those positives. We need to talk about the positives in South Carolina education. There are many other positives in this Bill. There are surely challenges. But there are some good things going on, and we've done some good things here with this Bill. I want to emphasize that this is just one step. There is still much to do. But we are moving in the right direction. We're going to put more money in the budget for education this year than we did last year. Those are good things for South Carolina students and for South Carolina teachers.
There is much more work to do. This is not the end of the education reform process. It is a good, strong step in the right direction. We have begun a great conversation in education that has been wanting for decades. We do not solve every problem with this Bill. But, through a large bipartisan effort, we are making a significant step in the right direction with the passage of this Bill.
At 11:04 A.M., on motion of Senator CROMER, the Senate adjourned to meet at the call of the PRESIDENT under the provisions of Rule 1C.
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