With a 41-4 vote, the bill will receive its second reading
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —A bill that would bring sweeping changes to education across the state is one step closer to the Governor’s desk.
With a 41-4 vote, the Education Overhaul Bill is moving onto its second reading, meaning it could go to the House as soon as Thursday. This comes after eight weeks of debate among the Senate.
Senator Greg Hembree (R-Horry County), the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, says he has spoken to hundreds of teachers and held dozens of meetings over the last year to work on this bill.
He says after eight weeks of debate, and some hurdles left to clear, he is proud that the Senate is doing something to help teachers and students.
“I’m real proud of the Senate, I mean I’m proud of the hard work that went into it, the thoughtful work, the listening, and the effort that my colleagues engaged in,” Sen. Hembree said.
Some changes to education in the bill include the expansion of kindergarten for four-year-olds across the state, as well as needs-based scholarships for students to attend technical schools.
“Those students who can’t afford to go will be eligible to go to technical college for free. That’s a big deal in a state like South Carolina,” said Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw County).
However, some teachers are not in favor of the bill.
SC for Ed, the group that spearheaded a gathering of 10,000 teachers at the State House in May, said on Twitter that Wednesday was a “shameful day in South Carolina” and saying it does nothing to help teachers.
Even with this opposition, Sen. Hembree says there are teachers who embrace the bill.
“Many parts of that bill, we put in there at the request of teachers and teacher groups. I’ve talked to hundreds of them literally, and I ask what are you really against? ‘Well, it doesn’t do anything about pay increases, it doesn’t do anything about class sizes.’ They focus their conversations on things that aren’t in the bill, not things that are in the bill,” said Sen. Hembree.
Still, some Senators say the long debate over education, which isn’t set to slow down any time soon, is well worth it.
“I wish it hadn’t taken quite as long as it did, but to expand four-year-old kindergarten across the state, to get free technical college, I’d be willing to stay here all month, all year, as long as it takes,” said Sen. Sheheen.
Four Senators voted against sending the bill to a second reading: Sen. Mike Fanning (D-Fairfield County), Sen. Marlon Kimpson (D-Charleston County), Sen. Shane Martin (R-Spartanburg County), and Sen. Mia McLeod (D-Richland County).
Sen. Fanning, a former teacher and outspoken critic of the bill, said the Senate had many chances to include things teachers requested be in the bill, but repeatedly voted them down. He quoted several nursery rhymes in his remarks opposing the bill, using the words of “Hey Diddle Diddle” and “This Little Piggy” to show that the bill “was riddled with nonsense” and that teachers “will suffer for twenty to thirty years” as a result of this bill being passed.
Once the bill goes through third reading, it will go to the House of Representatives, and once members from both legislative bodies go over their versions, the one they agree upon will go to the Governor’s desk.
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