Legislative Report

  • Thursday, March 27, 2014

I serve on the Education and Public Works Committee and I am employed by Trident Technical College. Therefore, anything concerning education is of great interest to me, from kindergarten to higher education.

Although I am not on the K-12 Subcommittee, I attended their meeting last week. Discussed were several proposed regulations affecting the South Carolina Department of Education.

House Bill H-4650 would allow proficiency testing for students instead of requiring “seat time.” The crux of the bill was to offer foreign students the opportunity to test out of their native language as a foreign language for high school credit.

The regulation was written in such a way to allow school districts to offer proficiency testing in any subject. When I questioned the Department of Education representative if it intended to establish statewide standard and passing scores, he said no.

Having a higher education background, I understand college proficiency exams and there are national standards to receive credit.

My question to the State Department representative was, “Will the state establish a regulation for proficiency testing and an acceptable passing score?”

The answer was no.

Just for clarification, I asked the representative, “We are going to allow proficiency in any subject to be determined independently by each of the 86 school districts in South Carolina?”

They answered yes.

Although this concerns me, the regulation was passed and sent to full committee where I will raise further questions.

The second bill for discussion and debate was H-4840, which would allow alternative assessments for granting a high school diploma. Currently the GED has converted to computerized testing and eliminated the paper/pencil test.

There are individuals who are not comfortable with a computer and this causes frustration while trying to complete the GED test. Other states have used a combination of computer work and paper/pencil tests to grant a high school diploma for adults.

Also, the cost of the GED has risen to $150, which is prohibited by some coming through the GED preparation program.

The bill would allow school districts to choose an alternative equivalency test that is acceptable to our public colleges.

Another meeting I attended was the College of Charleston/MUSC merger ad Hoc Committee. Of significant importance to those of us in the Lowcountry was the discussion on the merger.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley made a passionate plea in favor of the merger. He said it was not about Charleston but about South Carolina. We are in a major metropolitan area without a comprehensive research university and without the ability to provide PhDs in Chemistry, Physics, or Engineering. We are proposing a gradual phasing in the merger without losing the identity of either institution. It is about aspiring toward greatness.

Others were concerned about the price tag of a merger, and that it doesn’t destroy core function of the current institutions.

As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 553-9288 or at the State House (803) 734-2951 or email me at joedaning@schouse.gov.

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