S.C. Senators inching closer to a vote on education reform bill

Lawmakers discussed several amendments, expected to continue Wednesday

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —Eight weeks have gone by, and lawmakers are still debating a bill that would change education across the state.

However, some major strides were made in bringing the bill closer to a vote.

Over the past few days, the Senate has passed amendments that would expand kindergarten for four-year olds and would eliminate the Education Oversight Committee effective July 2021.

Even though they will still discuss additional amendments throughout the week, some say Senate Bill 419 is looking better by the day.

“I think it’s important to get this education bill right, so it’s taken a number of weeks, but ramming something through quickly and in a hurry and having a bad result is a bad thing,” said Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw County).

Over the last eight weeks, Senators have proposed more than 300 amendments to improve the state’s education reform bill. Senator Mike Fanning (D-Fairfield County), a former teacher, proposed most of them throughout the last few weeks until Senators voted to limit debate on those amendments.

One addition to the bill that went through almost unanimously was an amendment from Senator Sheheen giving more four-year-olds a head start on their education.

“Four-year-old kindergarten in South Carolina is a proven, proven success story. Those are rare. Unfortunately, it’s not available to all the kids in South Carolina, but with this bill and hopefully this budget this year, we’ll expand that to every county in the state,” said Sen. Sheheen.

Some lawmakers say some issues that aren’t directly covered in the Education Reform Bill, including teacher salaries, will be discussed once the budget comes to the floor.

As discussion on the bill comes down the home stretch, some are optimistic it will help educators and students across the state.

“Doing nothing is accepting the status quo in education, and we’ve all said education needs. I think this bill is a step in that direction, it doesn’t fix all issues in education, but it is a step forward,” said Sen. Scott Talley (R-Spartanburg County).

The House passed their version of the education reform bill last spring.

Once the Senate votes on the bill, which could happen at some point this week, a group of Senators and members of the House will get together and put together a version based on the two that will end up on the Governor’s desk.

The Senate will reconvene Wednesday at 12:15 p.m.

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