Wednesday, January 23, 2013
This week was a continuation of committee and subcommittee meetings to hold public hearings on bills introduced in the House of Representatives.
Those passing the subcommittees go to full committee for discussion and debate. Upon passage, the bill goes to the House floor for debate and possible passage, then to the Senate for the same process on their side of the house.
As Chairman of the Education and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation, my subcommittee heard Bill H. 3121 on "texting while driving" introduced by Representative Don Bowen.
South Carolina is only one of five states without such a bill. While there are stiff penalties, it is not as stringent as DUI. Those persons speaking in favor of the bill represented the SC Assoc of Counties, SC Trucking Assoc, SC Dept. of Public Safety, SC Municipal Assoc, and SC Hospital Assoc. No one spoke against the bill. It passed unanimously and was sent to full committee.
I attended the K-12 Education Subcommittee meeting and heard from Dr. Mick Zais (State Dept. of Education) who presented his rationale for accountability, speaking on proposed letter grades as approved by U.S. Secretary of Education and on how we serve students in failing schools.
Dr. Zais did not give specifics or the formula for the letter grades or how the State/ District would determine teachers' grades. There are many factors that need to be considered when grading someone on performance.
Additionally, Dr. Zais suggested a change in correcting failing schools. Currently there are only three options: provide technical assistance to failing schools (at best, mixed results); replace the principal (problem, new principal cannot hire new teachers); and, assume management of school by State SDE staff.
As an alternative, Dr. Zais proposed a new Statewide "Recovery School District." It would operate similar to a charter school, have more accountability, be able to address teacher issues, and set standards and objectives. Because it would be a statewide school district, local issues would not have an effect on the operation of the school.
Representing the SC Education Oversight Committee was Melanie Barton. Her presentation highlighted graduation rates from high schools had increased two years in a row to 74.9 percent, the highest since 2008. This is optimistic news, not good news.
We must work harder to improve this critical milestone in a young person's life.
Also speaking at the K-12 Education Subcommittee were representatives from SC Charter School District, SC First Steps to Readiness, State Board of Education, SC School Board Assoc., SC Assoc of School Administrators, Public Charter School Alliance of SC, SC Assoc of Home Schools, and Palmetto State Teachers Assoc. This was a stakeholders meeting to get input from each, and no action was taken.
I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to represent you in the South Carolina House of Representatives. If you have a comment or opinion, or if I may be of assistance to you, please feel free to call me at home at 553-9288 or at the State House (803) 734-2951; or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.