Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The South Carolina Department of Education could soon have the authority to step in and help a school district in financial crisis.

The State House of Representatives passed the bill and is now waiting on a Senate vote to get the bill to Governor McMaster's desk.

Representative Rita Allison sponsored the bill.

"We continually, every year, start to see districts that are faltering in this manner and then they end up totally in a deficit," says Rep. Allison, R-Spartanburg.

The bill would require the Dept. of Education to develop and adopt a statewide program for identifying fiscal practices and budgetary conditions that, if uncorrected, could compromise the budget of a school district.

"There are times when the district do need assistance from the state," says State Superintendent Molly Spearman. "We're always there to offer our assistance, but we really needed the authority of the state legislature to really do this."

Currently the Dept. of Education can only step in when there is low student achievement or when accreditation is at risk.

"There are some districts that we know from their audit reports that are done at the end of the year, that there are some issues that need to be addressed by an outside body," says Superintendent Spearman.

At the beginning of the year, the Sumter School District reported that they had a $6.2M deficit. As a result, the district has made budget cuts, which include the elimination of more than 100 positions.

Rep. Allison says this could've been prevented.

"if this were in place at the time, they could've seen the warning signs before and maybe given them the technical assistance, leadership and direction they needed, not to have gotten where they did."

The bill is on the Senate calendar for this week. For a complete look at bill details, click on the link here.