Communique from SC House GOP Caucus
Working closely with Gov. Henry McMaster, leaders in the House and Senate promised to be bold this legislative session, and this week showed just how serious they are. The Governor devoted almost one-third of his entire State of the State speech to the need to find solutions to our outdated education system. On top of that, House Speaker Jay Lucas released a comprehensive education reform package. (More on that later.)
As the legislative session moves along it is apparent that the overarching themes will be education and tax reform. One of my top priorities is to be a steward of the taxpayer’s dollar and my goal is to make sure the tax code is the best it can be for South Carolinians.
The House Tax Reform Committee continued its work this week and is working hard on how to best overhaul SC’s tax structure with the goal to create a fairer and lower tax burden on individuals and businesses.
House Bill 3759. South Carolina Career Opportunity and Access for All Act:
We have been working on an 84-page comprehensive education reform bill that tackles the fundamental changes we need to make to modernize our education system. This bill, introduced on Thursday morning, includes a Student Bill of Rights that ensures every student has highly qualified teachers, excellent principal leadership and a system that puts their successes first. I am committed to doing what is best for the next generation, it’s time to bring the way we educate our students into the 21st century.
Highlights from the bill:
* Making sure third graders are promoted to the next grade level with the ability to read by revising definitions and exemptions in the 2014 Read to Succeed law.
* Requiring school districts with fewer than 1,000 students to consolidate with neighboring districts to share resources and save money.
* Dissolving school districts that have four consecutive years of failing scores.
* Increase the salary of first-year teachers to $35,000 next school year and provide an across the board 9% pay raise for all teachers over the next two years.
* Improving communication efforts from pre-school through college by creating a Zero to 20 Committee that is overseen by the Governor.
* Eliminating three end-of-year standardized tests in elementary schools.
* Requiring high school students to pass an admissions test before entering a technical college to ensure they are prepared for the next level of education.
* Requiring school boards to adopt ethics policies and training.
This particular bill focuses on policy, but more education reform bills are still to come. H.3759 is expected to be debated on the House floor in March.
The State of the State:
On Wednesday night in the House chamber, Governor Henry McMaster shared his agenda with the state. I am pleased that public education and keeping South Carolina’s economy “red hot” through lower taxes are his main priorities. He emphasized that South Carolina’s unemployment rate is at an all-time low, but we cannot celebrate because there is a shortage of skilled workers and teachers that can only be fixed by “changing everything” about our education system. Along with the education bill that the House introduced, the Governor is proposing to tackle poverty and attracting jobs to poor areas through a $100 million state-backed rural economic development fund. Another priority the Governor addressed is returning a large portion of the budget surplus to tax payers in the form of a one-time rebate. The most important takeaway of the speech was the consensus that the General Assembly and the Executive Branch will work together across party lines to make these priorities happen.
Quote of the Week:
“Most importantly it’s time to face reality in education. Without significant reforms our students won’t have a future. We give them an opportunity at a better future by putting students’ needs above all else. It’s time to change the educational model in South Carolina.” -Speaker Jay Lucas
The deadline to get the state’s new driver’s license that features the REAL ID is getting closer. DMV officials are predicting hours-long lines next year in advance of the October 2020 deadline. At that time, you will need a REAL ID to fly commercially. DMV Chief Kevin Shwedo briefed the House Education Committee. At the current rate of sign-ups, he said, “I’m betting on six-hour lines because people aren’t coming in.”