Massive SC education overhaul bill faces another delay

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A small group of state senators had hoped to vote Monday on a massive bill overhauling South Carolina's education system, but the chairman says he needs more time to work out differences with a key Democrat.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Greg Hembree told subcommittee members reviewing the bill he didn't think there were huge differences between him and Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden and he thought they just "needed to lock ourselves in a room and try to finish this up."

Republican Senate President Harvey Peeler of Gaffney asked if the meeting might delay Hembree's goal of getting the bill through the full Senate Education Committee before year's end as well so it will be on the Senate floor when the Legislature returns in January.

"While I breathe I hope," said Hembree, quoting the English translation of the state's Latin motto.

The subcommittee met less than an hour Monday, mostly going over parts of the bill that deal with when and how the state can take over for failing school districts.

The South Carolina House already passed its version of a bill that touches nearly every segment of education from pre-kindergarten to technical schools and from standardized testing to how schools are run. Gov. Henry McMaster urged the Senate to pass it too before the session ended in June.

But senators said they wanted extensive public hearings with input from teachers, administrators and others and the extra time to review was critical with a bill that runs about 80 pages.

House Speaker Jay Lucas has said his chamber will dive even deeper into education reform in 2020, no matter what the Senate does. Later this month, the Republican speaker from Hartsville plans to meet with the teachers of the year in every South Carolina school district to get their thoughts on how to improve public education.

Hembree told senators he plans to meet with Lucas and McMaster before finalizing the Senate version of the bill to make sure they are on the same page.


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