Teachers meet with lawmakers, give feedback on education reform bill

Several teachers are saying the bill should not be passed since it doesn't help teachers

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —Hundreds of teachers came to the State House Wednesday to have conversations with lawmakers about the state of public education in South Carolina.

Several teachers spoke about, among other things, needing a Teachers Bill of Rights, which is something that has been discussed over the past week, but was put on hold Tuesday night and voted down Wednesday night. 

“The Senate slapped teachers in the face. We have been working for the last week on a Teacher’s Bill of Rights, a very benign document that everyone would agree upon, but instead of finishing it with a vote on the bill or coming back today and finishing it up, they voted to carry over the bill, which means it will be weeks before we get back to it,” said Sen. Mike Fanning (D-Fairfield County).

Some Senators say there’s a divide since some think teachers will be frivolous in the courts when challenging rights. 

“The question is really whether or not we want teachers, not only to have a Bill of Rights to give them some True North, but whether or not the teachers are going to be able to enforce their rights through some court system or quasi-court system,” said Sen. Stephen Goldfinch (R-Georgetown County).

Sen. Goldfinch is aware that some people have concerns with the bill, but says it shouldn’t be killed since it is so rare to have strong bipartisan support on an issue like education.

However, several teachers want some changes to be made. Paige Salonich, a Board Member for SC For Ed who has taught in Lexington One for ten years, says joining up with other teachers to make their voices heard means a lot to her.

“It’s one of the things I’ve been really passionate about, that’s why I got into education. I got into education, realized there’s a long way to go to fix it and improve it  but we have to start somewhere,” Salonich said.

Some lawmakers encourage active conversations with teachers, saying their voices will make a difference.

“I think it absolutely helps anytime to have people who are involved talking with us and being part of the process, I welcome input from teachers, from all teachers throughout the state,” said Sen. Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington County).

Some say conversations are necessary, but they need to be productive both ways.

“We need to hear what they have to say, but I think they should also hear what we have to say, and let’s talk about it reasonably and let’s make good, sound solid decisions before we just put something into law that we may regret putting into law too quickly,” said Sen. Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington County).

Initially, the Teacher Bill of Rights was carried over Tuesday night so Senators could discuss other bills. An amendment proposed by Senators Goldfinch and Sen. Greg Hembree (R-Horry County) offered some changes to the Teacher Bill of Rights Wednesday, but it was voted down, 28-14.

Leaders with SC for Ed are giving lawmakers a firm March 17 deadline to make meaningful changes to education reform.

Otherwise, some leaders say they could push for another large-scale teacher rally similar to one where 10,000 teachers came to the State House last May.

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