The more than 60-page proposed Senate education bill has many facets and is expected to be debated for days, if not weeks, before getting a vote.
On Tuesday, senators dug in, beginning the potentially weeks-long process of proposing and voting on amendments.
WLTX put together five things you need to know as the Senate begins debate:
1. Senators began debating potential amendments to the bill on Tuesday.
The proposals are expected to include more changes to the Read to Succeed program, scholarships for low income families to choose different schools and a potential teacher bill of rights.
“I mean there are various things that teachers ought to be able to count on. And I think if we put them together in a teachers' bill of rights and put them in the code as something to aspire for, that's going to be a tool in the toolbox for the teachers to get what they deserve. So, that's one amendment,” said Senator Tom Davis, (R) Beaufort.
Davis also said he would consider a scholarship-type program for low income families to choose their schools, saying a choice would foster competition and better schools for everyone.
2. The amendment debate is expected to take weeks as senators from both sides debate each one and potentially vote on each one.
3. After the amendment process ends, the work still isn’t done.
The bill would still need overall Senate approval and then would go to conference committee to hash out the differences in the Senate and House version.
4. The current bill is controversial.
The proposal faces opposition from the group SCforED for not addressing issues like classroom sizes and the fear it will funnel public money to private and charter schools, an accusation which bill supporters dispute.
It also is under fire from the South Carolina School Board Association.
“Our association, which represents the locally elected and appointed school boards governing the states' 79 school districts has been persistent in asking Senators to remove a provision in the bill, that mandates the termination of locally elected school boards in school districts that are deemed in a state of emergency,” said Chuck Saylors, Board President.
At a Tuesday press conference, Saylors and other SCSBA representatives said removing elected school boards could violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and unfairly target majority non-white voters, districts, and boards.
Bill supporters and the SCSBA are arguing over two sides of the same coin.
The SCSBA claims research, showing how state takeover successes often revert back to failures in effected districts, proves the state takeovers don’t work. On the other hand, lawmakers in favor of the change argue the same research shows not removing the boards in failing districts makes the state takeovers irrelevant after the state removes itself from control.
5. Senators have repeatedly said the bill is not the only education item to be considered this year.
“There are some big pictures items that a lot of people are identifying, and I think we need to consider, although not in this bill, we need to consider an additional increase in teacher pay. We need to look at how we restrict classroom size. That's not currently in this bill, there may be an amendment to add it to this bill,” said Senator Brad Hutto.
Debate will continue on Wednesday.