Columbia, SC (WLTX) Gov. Nikki Haley, teachers, and business leaders on Monday celebrated the fact that her education reform plan is part of the final state budget that lawmakers passed last week, meaning major changes are on the way for South Carolina schools.
The plan focuses on improving reading, by spending $29 million to put a reading coach in every elementary school in the state.
Teacher Dyisha Taylor, an instructional coach in Orangeburg, says, "If we can get our students reading on grade level by third grade, this will decrease dropout rates and improve student achievement in middle and high school."
Jan Hammond, who teaches middle school in Lexington County, says, "If they can't read, their only defense is just be a discipline problem."
The plan also includes $29 million to expand technology in schools that don't have it, by improving internet speeds in schools, and providing tablets or other computers to every student. The plan also provides training for teachers so they'll know how to use technology in their lessons.
Gov. Haley said Monday, "The fact that I'm able to look at my daughter and see her go to an amazing school like River Bluff High School, where every classroom has a 72-inch TV and every child has a tablet, yet when I went to go give that anti-bullying speech in Bamberg, they didn't even have the equipment for me to play the video on. I said then, I'll say it now--it was immoral."
The biggest part of the reform plan, though, is changing the state's school funding formula to give w
eight to poverty. Now, a school district will get 20 percent more for each student who's eligible for free or reduced-price lunches and/or Medicaid. They'll also get 20 percent more for each student with low English proficiency.
Gov. Haley says the additional money comes from state revenue being higher than expected and from changing the funding formula. "We're lifting up all children, and we didn't hurt a single school district to do it and we didn't raise taxes to do it," she says.
The state Democratic Party is criticizing the governor, though, saying this new focus on education is an election year gimmick, since she vetoed $110 million in education programs and services since 2011.
You can see details of the governor's plan here. http://governor.sc.gov/News/Documents/Gov. Nikki Haley - K-12 Education Reform Initiative 2014.pdf