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South Carolina Senate takes up education, juvenile justice reform

Missed what happened at the State House this week? Here's a round-up of some things the Senate worked on while the House was out on furlough.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Senators spent the past week working on legislation that largely affects youth in the state. Here's a breakdown of what to know.

First, school choice measures were a priority for many lawmakers as the General Assembly approaches the crossover deadline. After April 7, bills that haven’t passed their chamber will die for the year. 

One of the bills would create education scholarship accounts for students that are low-income or disabled. They could get $6,000 to spend on education costs, including private school.  

Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey told News19, “we’ve tried to cover as many things as we could with the focus being ensuring children have additional opportunities.” However, the bill has received a lot of pushback from Democrats for putting public dollars toward private institutions. 

RELATED: South Carolina Senate considers education scholarships for low-income students

Meanwhile, legislation that could expand open enrollment to every school district passed the Senate Education Committee Wednesday. "Local boards would develop both within and cross-district open enrollment policies based on evaluation of local data for its local needs,” explained research director for the committee, Sally Cauthen. 

That same committee also passed the “Save Women’s Sports Act," which bans transgender students from female sports teams. During the meeting, the controversial measure received push back from both Republicans and Democrats.

“I just couldn’t support it," Senator John Scott said in the meeting. "We’re doing legislation just for the purpose of doing legislation and we’ve got people all upset about something that doesn’t even exist in the state.” The House of Representatives has a similar bill also pending at the committee level.

Lastly, the head of the Department of Juvenile Justice Eden Hendrick met with senators Thursday to discuss reforming the agency’s system. Measures that could reduce the number of incarcerated children in South Carolina and improve treatment of juveniles passed in the subcommittee hearing.

RELATED: South Carolina's juvenile justice system could get major overhaul

Hendrick told the senate panel, “there's lots of things in this bill that will help DJJ, allow us to focus our efforts on rehabilitating the youth that need to be in our system.”

Both chambers will be back in session Tuesday when the Senate continues its debate on education scholarships. The Senate Judiciary Committee will also meet Tuesday to take up the juvenile justice reform bills.

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