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 we are. It should be apparent that the overarching themes of this session will be education and tax reform.
Wednesday, the Governor devoted almost one-third of his entire State of the State speech to the need to find solutions to our outdated education system.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. I will be posting a link to these bills on my website (www.nathansnews.com) for all to see. I also plan to share with our local school board and Superintendent at our annual breakfast this week. I’m interested in hearing from all sides before signing on to these bills. While much of the focus has been on our teachers (rightfully so), there needs to be a focus on the student as well. Please take time to review these bills and share your input.
One of the key parts of this comprehensive education reform package is legislation (H.3759 which is 84 pages long) that tackles the fundamental changes we need to make to modernize our education system.
That 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 the student’s successes first. I am committed to doing what is best for the next generation and it’s past time to imrpove the way we educate our students into the 21st century.
Additional 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 so please share your thought with me before then.
One of my priorities this session is to continue to be a steward of the taxpayer’s dollar and to make sure the tax code is the best it can be for South Carolinians. I am also continuing my push to clean up Columbia by again working for passage of common-sense legislation that, simply put, would stop the gravy train for any official convicted of public corruption. The state should no longer be required to provide these individuals with taxpayer funded health and dental plans – as well as their retirement plans. Would you agree?
Please call me at my State House office (734-2969), my home (732-1861), email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov or connect via Facebook or Twitter. And, of course, stop me out here in Irmo or Chapin anytime you see me and want to offer support or advice!
Check your email box next week for February’s COMMUNITY UPDATE! If you haven’t been receiving these over the past decade, please email me and I’ll add you to the distribution list.