Education Committee – 2016 End of Session Report – K-12 Bills

Having been granted the privilege of chairing the K-12 subcommittee by Rep. Rita Allison, the Chair of our Education Committee, I attempted to give a hearing to as many viable education bills as possible. Needless to say, the members of the subcommittee were very busy and are to be commended for their hard work.

As chair of the subcommittee, my job was to decide which bills were to be heard, oversee the conduct of the subcommittee meeting where testimony was given and questions were debated before the bill was voted as favorable or unfavorable. If the bill passed the full Education Committee, then explained it to the full House and answered questions.

Below are explanations of the bills that became law followed by the bills that passed out of the House but died in the Senate.

K-12 LEGISLATION THAT BECAME LAW

CHARTER SCHOOL GOVERNANCE

Act 83 of 2015 (House bill 4084 by Stringer) specifies that charter school board members, employees, and staff are subject to ethics and government accountability requirements that are established in state law for public members and public employees. The legislation also revises charter school provisions to make specific provisions for the hiring of someone who serves as the designated school leader in charge of overseeing the daily operation of the school.

FORGIVING SCHOOL DAYS MISSED BECAUSE OF SNOW, EXTREME WEATHER CONDITIONS, OR OTHER DISRUPTIONS

Act 21 of 2015 (House bill 3890 by Norrell) revises the authority for forgiving school days missed because of snow, extreme weather conditions, or other disruptions. A school district may, through a majority vote of its board, waive make-up requirements for up to three school days when the year’s scheduled make-up days have been used or are no longer available. After the 2014-2015 school year, such waivers may not be granted by a board until schools have made up three full days, or the equivalent number of hours. The State Board of Education, at the request of a local board, may grant waivers for up to three additional days beyond the three days forgiven by the local district.

JAMES B. EDWARDS CIVICS EDUCATION INITIATIVE

Act 52 of 2015 (Senate bill 437 by Campsen) is named to honor the memory of the late South Carolina Governor and his commitment to fostering civic virtue. The “James B. Edwards Civics Education Initiative” Act requires public high school students to take the civics test that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services administers to prospective citizens to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of American history, and the principles and form of the United States government. Students are not required to pass this civics test, but those who do receive at least a passing grade may be recognized by the school district. Each public school, including charter schools, must report the percentage of students at or above the designated passing score on the test for inclusion on the school’s report card.

STUDENT PARTICIPATION IN INTERSCHOLASTIC ACTIVITIES

Act 25 of 2015 (Senate bill 154 by Shealy) expands the State Board of Education’s authority to waive the academic requirements for students to participate in sports and other interscholastic activities by allowing the board to grant a waiver of the requirements if a student’s ineligibility to participate in interscholastic activities is due to a long-term absence as a result of a medical condition.

INSTRUCTION OF CPR AND THE USE OF AED IN SCHOOLS

 Act 152 of 2016 (House bill 3265 by Wells) requires all public school students to receive instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of automated external defibrillators (AED) at least once between the ninth and twelfth grades. CPR training and AED awareness must be incorporated into the health education curriculum. Districts must adopt policies that waive the instructional requirement if a student is absent on the day of instruction, has a disability and cannot complete all or a portion of the hands-only CPR requirement, or a student’s parent or guardian completes a written opt-out form.

SOUTH CAROLINA FOUNDING PRINCIPLES ACT

 Act 192 of 2016 (House bill 3848 by Huggins), creates the South Carolina Founding Principles Act. The State Board of Education must incorporate “The Founding Principles” into the required study of the United States Constitution and the South Carolina Social Studies Standards. At a minimum, the board shall include the Federalist Papers, the structure of government, the role of the separation of powers, and the freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights.

HEARING OFFICERS FOR TEACHER DISCIPLINARY HEARINGS

Act __ of 2016 (House bill 3560 by Limehouse) provides local school boards with the option of using hearing officers to conduct teacher dismissal hearings. Hearing officers may not be a member of the local school board, or a district employee. The bill establishes procedures and requirements that must be followed should a hearing officer be utilized.

 DYSLEXIA TRAINING FOR EDUCATORS

Act __ of 2016 (House bill 5024 by Clary) is a joint resolution requiring the State Department of Education (SDE) to provide training to all reading and literacy coaches and literacy teachers in kindergarten through grade three regarding dyslexia and other related reading disorders.

ADULT STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS CONSENT ACT

Act __ of 2016 (House bill 5021 by Collins) creates the Adult Students with Disabilities Educational Rights Consent Act. When students who are eligible for special education services pursuant to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) reach the age of eighteen or are emancipated by a court, all rights given to their parents pursuant to this article transfer to the student unless one of two situations occur:

  1. STUDENTS WHO ARE NOT INCAPACITATED

Adult students eligible for special education services, but who are not incapacitated, may delegate their right to make decisions regarding their education.

  1. STUDENTS WHO ARE INCAPACITATED

Adult students eligible for special education servicers, and who are not determined to be incapacitated, may have an education representative appointed for them. At any time during the appointment of a representative, individuals other than school district or state education agency employees who have a bona fide interest in, and knowledge of, the student may challenge the designation of the representative. An adult student may also challenge the finding that he is unable to make informed educational decisions. The authority of the representative ends if the delegation is challenged, the student is no longer eligible for special education services, or a court issues an order of termination.

AMENDING THE CHARTER SCHOOL ACT SO THAT ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION CAMPUS MAY SERVE EDUCATIONALLY DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS

Act __ of 2016 (Senate bill 1262 – by Alexander) amends the South Carolina Charter Schools Act, specifically the provisions regarding Alternative Education Campuses (AEC). The bill allows for the creation of AECs that have an explicit mission and purpose of providing specific evidenced-based services for educationally disadvantaged students who have a demonstrated need for such assistance. Charter School AECs that desire to serve educationally disadvantaged students must define their specialized mission and purpose in the charter contract. The charter must also meet the mandates of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

COLLEGE-READY ASSESSMENT AND TESTING WINDOW

Act __ of 2016 (House bill 5140 by Pope) addresses testing windows and the administration of assessments. Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, districts must administer assessments to students in grades three through eight during the last twenty days of school. The State Board of Education may grant waivers for districts that cannot meet the twenty day testing window, but the waiver must document the scope and rationale for the extension. The district must provide a plan for showing how it will comply with the testing window the following year. Summative testing for each student may not exceed eight days per school year. Exceptions are allowed for students with disabilities. If schools are unable to administer assessments due to disruptions caused by inclement weather or technology failures, the district may request a paper-based test.

State law currently requires that the WorkKeys assessment be administered to determine career readiness, and the bill specifically requires that ACT Plus Writing be administered to gauge college readiness for the 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 school years. After the 2018-2019 school year, the State Department of Education must procure a standardized national test that documents student progress toward national college and career readiness benchmarks.

Assessment results are not automatically reportable to colleges. For students with disabilities who do not wish to have the score reported, accommodations will be provided by the school according to the student’s IEP/504 plan. If students choose to use the results of the assessment for college admission, the student or parent must make that indication prior to taking the assessment. Students wishing to receive a college reportable score who need accommodations due to a disability must comply with ACT’s deadline for requesting allowable accommodations.

If funds are available, the state must provide a two-year or four-year college readiness assessment, or the WorkKeys assessment, to twelfth graders who did not meet the benchmarks in the eleventh grade.

The bill allows for school and district transitional reports in the fall of 2016 and 2017. Reports must include school assessment results, graduation rates, and college and career readiness performance.

(Note: a conference committee has been appointed for this bill. The committee’s report will be taken up June 15, so the details listed above have not received approval by the General Assembly.)

 ABBEVILLE BILLS

In December, the House Education Policy Review and Reform Task Force produced a report consisting of findings and recommendations addressing the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Abbeville v. State of South Carolina. From that report, eight bills were introduced. Seven of those bills were assigned to the House Education and Public Works Committee, and six were reported to the House. The House adopted all six bills and sent them to the Senate. Four bills have been approved by both bodies and enacted. Those four bills are listed below.

PROFILE OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA GRADUATE

Act 195 of 2016 (House bill 4936 by House Education Committee) ensures that graduates have world class knowledge based on college and career ready standards. Students should have the opportunity to learn one of a number of foreign languages, and have offerings in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, arts and social sciences. These pronouncements are based on the declaration that the principles outlined in “The Profile of the South Carolina Graduate” are the standards by which high school graduates should be measured, and are this state’s achievement goals for all high school students. Schools should strive to offer students the ability to obtain an array of world class skills such as the following: critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, teamwork and communication, and information, media, and technology.

SURVEY OF COLLEGE OF EDUCATION STUDENTS

Act __ of 2016 (House bill 4938 by House Education Committee) requires the State Department of Education (SDE) and the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA) to collaborate with the Commission of Higher Education in surveying students enrolled in the colleges of education of South Carolina colleges and universities. At a minimum, the survey must include the following questions: whether students have considered teaching in a rural and economically challenged districts; what incentives, if any, would cause them to move to, and work in, such a district, and any additional questions SDE and CERRA consider useful. SDE and CERRA will determine if additional surveys targeted to students in other majors should be created and conducted.

EDUCATION REFORM SERVICES

Act __ of 2016 (House bill 4939 by House Education Committee) establishes a committee to review Title 59 (Education) of the South Carolina Code of Laws, determine which statutes are obsolete or inapplicable, and report its findings to the General Assembly. The committee must also identify all federal education statutes and regulations with which the state of South Carolina is required to comply and include in its report the total cost to comply with the identified federal statutes and regulations.

SDE must develop a system for providing services and technical assistance to districts on a regional basis. This assistance includes both academic and financial assistance. The State Superintendent must report on the design of the system to the General Assembly. Every year after 2016, the Superintendent must report on the assistance provided to districts and the impact of the assistance on student achievement. The SDE must monitor the professional development of teachers, staff, and administrators in underperforming districts and determine what improvements are necessary. The Department must also monitor the operations of school boards in underperforming districts and recommend improvements to them as well.

OFFICE OF TRANSFORMATION

Act 178 of 2016 (House Bill 4940 by House Education Committee) codifies the Office of Transformation within SDE. The office will provide service and support to schools throughout the state, but must focus on building the capacity of staff serving in the lowest performing districts and schools. The office must provide leadership and curriculum coaches to work with teachers, superintendents, schools boards, families, communities, and other educational partners. Direct coaching and support must be provided through the analysis of data and the development of interventions. The Office must also identify best practices from other states in regard to innovations that produce improvements in academic growth and achievement of students, especially in low performing schools.

K-12 LEGISLATION THAT PASSED THE HOUSE AND DIED IN THE SENATE

ALLOWING SCHOOLS TO CONVERT DAYS TO HOURS

House bill 3044 provides public school districts with the option of basing their school calendars on the traditional 190 day method (180 days of instruction plus ten days for professional development, planning, etc.) or allowing them to use an equivalent number of instructional hours.   The bill retains the requirement that schools cannot open before the third Monday in August (unless a school operates on a year-round calendar). The bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.

CLOSING SCHOOLS ON THE MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND MEMORIAL DAY HOLIDAYS

Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, House bill 3432 requires local school districts and schools to close in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Memorial Day. Schools may not use either day as a make up for inclement weather. The bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.

CELEBRATION WINTER HOLIDAYS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

 House bill 3512 allows school districts to teach students about the “history, customs, and symbols of traditional winter celebrations.” The bill allows students and district staff to offer holiday greetings including, but not limited to, “Happy Hanukkah,” “Happy Holidays,” and “Merry Christmas.” Districts may display “scenes or symbols traditionally associated with…winter celebrations including, but not limited to, a menorah, a nativity scene, and a Christmas tree” on school property. The bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.

If such displays are created, the scene or symbol must include more than one religion associated with the winter celebration, or one religion associated with the celebration and one secular scene or symbol if an equal number of each are displayed. Displays encouraging adherence to a particular religious belief are prohibited. This bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.

 DIPLOMAS FOR KOREAN AND VIETNAM WAR VETERANS

House bill 3420 requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to issue high school diplomas to South Carolinians who enlisted in any branch of the United States military while enrolled as a high school student of this State from June 26, 1950 through July 27, 1953 (Korean War), or November 1, 1955 through August 15, 1973 (Vietnam War). In order to receive a diploma, veterans must present documentation of school enrollment and a copy of their honorable discharge to SDE. The bill was adopted by the House and sent to the Senate.

TERM OF OFFICE FOR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS

Section 59-19-315 provides that the term of office of every elected school board member must begin one week following the certification of his or her election. If House bill 3657 is enacted, legislation (particularly local legislation) that alters the beginning of the term of office would control.

 TEACHER RECERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

House bill 4718 creates the South Carolina Retired Educator Certificate. Retired educators are allowed to receive the Retired Educator Certificate if they previously held a South Carolina renewable, professional educator certificate, and do not hold any other valid South Carolina educator certificate. The initial retired educator certificate is valid for thirty years. A certificate may be continuously renewed after thirty years for a period of ten years. SDE is to create a process of submitting renewal requests. Teachers are required to participate in district professional development.

FIRST STEPS REAUTHORIZATION

House bill 4774, as amended by the House, reauthorizes the First Steps to School Readiness initiative until July 1, 2017.

ABBEVILLE BILLS

 The following Abbeville bills were not voted upon by the Senate.

SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COORDINATING COUNCIL

House bill 4937 reestablishes the South Carolina Education and Economic Development Coordinating Council. The Council is comprised of the 28 individuals, including, but not limited to, the following: the State Superintendent of Education; Director of the Department of Employment and Workforce; the Secretary of Commerce; Executive Director of the Commission on Higher Education; Executive Director of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce; Chair of the Education Oversight Committee; legislators; business leaders; and representatives from the K‑12 and higher education sectors. The Chair must be one of the Governor’s appointees.

The Council must advise the State Department of Education (SDE) regarding implementation of the Education and Economic Development Act (EEDA), review accountability and performance measures, report on the progress and compliance of the EEDA to the General Assembly, Governor and others, make recommendations for statewide awareness of EEDA, and provide input to the Department of Commerce and State Board of Education.

 FISCAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND INTERVENTION

 House Bill 4941 requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to establish a program for identifying fiscal practices and budgetary conditions that could compromise the fiscal integrity of a school district. The program must contain the following three levels of concern: “fiscal watch,” “fiscal caution,” and “fiscal emergency.” SDE must work with district superintendents and finance officers to develop the program’s guidelines.

If the Superintendent determines corrections have not occurred, or there is a law enforcement investigation involving the district, a fiscal watch must be declared. If an audit shows the district is operating outside of accounting principles or does not maintain at least a two percent reserve fund, a watch may be announced. Once a watch is in place, a district must submit a recovery plan to the State Superintendent within sixty days. If approved the district must implement the plan, and SDE will provide assistance.

A district may not be released from a fiscal watch in the same fiscal year in which it was declared, but it may be released the following fiscal year if SDE believes that corrections have been implemented. If audits show the possibility of a fiscal emergency, the Superintendent may declare a “fiscal caution.” If the audit shows one of the following the Superintendent must declare a fiscal caution: accounting practices are outside acceptable accounting limits; a district’s audit is more than sixty days late; audits from the past two years show conditions that may lead to a fiscal emergency; district records are unauditable; the district is not maintaining a two percent fund reserve; there are significant weaknesses and deficiencies that have a significant impact on the district; or, there is a law enforcement investigation involving the school board.

Should a district fail to develop or follow a correction plan, be at risk of defaulting on any type of debt, be under a fiscal watch or fiscal caution for three fiscal years, or have problems that are severe enough to necessitate additional action, the State Superintendent must declare fiscal emergency. Once declared, the State Auditor must direct SDE to assume emergency management of the district until the emergency is ended.

Comment are closed.

Tommy Stringer