COLUMBIA, S.C. — After six hours of debate Wednesday night the South Carolina House passed its version of the education reform bill.
With an overwhelming majority, the House passed the “South Carolina Career Opportunity and Access for All Act” with a 113-4 vote.
Earlier in the evening, the bill was amended to be titled the “South Carolina Education, Career Opportunity, and Access for All Act.”
Before the vote, lawmakers spent hours debating more than 40 amendments. The chamber passed some of them, including giving every teacher and full-time librarian a 30-minute break during the school day.
However, the evening was not without political dramatics.
After every proposed amendment was discussed, Representative John King (D), having been frustrated with several of his amendments being tabled, asked Speaker Jay Lucas (R) to read the bill in its entirety.
The request merited a collective groan from many of the representatives, anxious to vote on the bill after nearly six hours of debate.
After King’s request, some Republican representatives asked the Speaker if they could reconsider the 30-minute break amendment, which had already been discussed twice that evening.
Democratic Minority Leader Todd Rutherford and Speaker Lucas spoke to King during a 2-minute break, and when the Speaker reconvened, he said King had withdrawn his request.
The vote happened moments later.
Education and Public Works Committee Chair and Republican Rita Allison called it a victory.
“Feel very good about it, I feel what we’ve done for the teachers and students of the state—I think I said earlier on this state is only as strong as its weakest links and we want to make sure every child in this state has the same opportunity for a quality education,” Allison said.
Fellow supporters of the bill say even with it passing the House, the work to fix education in the state of South Carolina is not done.
“Don't put it on a shelf and let it accumulate dust. Every few years it needs to come off the shelf, we need to look at it again, we need to make sure are we still accommodating 21st century students and 21st century workers?” said Rep. Raye Felder (R).
Felder serves on the Education and Public Works Committee and had a prominent role in pushing the legislation.
The bill also had wide spread support across both parties and those typically in the minority said there's a reason they supported this bill with their Republican colleagues.
“Everybody had their input, that's why we started with one bill, and then the first thing we did was amend it and struck all of that language and replaced it with language that was developed after talking with students and parents and teachers and that replacement was a much much better bill,” said Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell (D).
Now, the job is up to the Senate to pass their version of the bill. The Senate version is still in committee.
If the bill were to pass in the Senate, it would go to conference to work out the differences between the two chambers. Then, it would go to Governor Henry McMaster (R) for approval.
On Wednesday morning, he tweeted his support of the House bill.