Column: I’m just a bill, only a bill, and I’m sitting here on...

  • Saturday, April 20, 2013

A portion of each regularly scheduled Aiken County School Board meeting is dedicated to a legislative update. The Board serves as an advocate for public education and is dedicated to keeping the public abreast on current legislative issues.
The Board is currently tracking the progress of four legislative bills, as well as others, as these bills make their way through the process at the Statehouse.
The South Carolina Read to Succeed Bill (S.0516) states "students not reading on grade level at the end of the third grade must be retained for reading instruction." The students would complete summer reading work or receive intensive reading instruction the following school year. In addition, children entering kindergarten would receive a reading readiness test to identify learning barriers. The bill would be funded by monies set aside in the South Carolina state budget for reading improvement.
The bill was introduced to the Senate on March 12 and currently resides in the South Carolina Senate K-12 Subcommittee, where it is undergoing discussion.
The Parent Empowerment Act (S.0556) would allow parents to vote on assuming control of "at-risk" schools. With a 51 percent parent majority vote, a school could be converted to a charter school, put into an improvement model program, or closed. The act was introduced to the Senate on March 20 and currently resides in the Senate K-12 Subcommittee, where it is undergoing discussion.
The School Choice Bill (S.0313) would require school districts, over a three-year period, to implement a program to provide education program choices such as: public charter schools, virtual school programs, single-gender programs and magnet schools. The local school districts would adopt policies for individual school capacities and priority of acceptance into the programs. The bill is currently being debated in the full Senate.
The School Security Bill (S.0249) would require a state-funded school resource officer in each school. The school resource officer would be supplied by city and county governments using monies allocated by the State of South Carolina. It is estimated that the cost of providing a school resource officer in each school in South Carolina to be $80 million. The state House or Representatives version of the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget does not include funding for school resource officers required by this bill. This bill currently resides in the Senate Committee on Finance.
The legislative update is included in the board agenda at sc.aiken.schoolboard.net and can be accessed by interested members of the public at any time. The public can comment on these bills, or any others, by contacting their Aiken County Legislative Delegation member via www.scstatehouse.gov/.

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