It’s a new year in South Carolina – which, like every January, means it’s the beginning of a new legislative session. With plenty of education bills circulating at the Statehouse, now is the perfect time for a quick refresher on the legislative session and a look at some bills to watch in 2024.
First things first, this marks year two of South Carolina’s 2023-24 legislative term, which starts Tuesday, Jan. 9. That means bills filed in 2023 are still active in 2024, and furthermore, any progress they made carries over into the current session. Bills that passed the House last year, for example, will head straight to the governor’s desk upon passing the Senate this year, and vice versa (so long as they aren’t amended).
Here are some noteworthy bills that have cleared at least one chamber and have a decent shot of becoming law:
- Open enrollment (H.3843) – Requires all S.C. school boards to adopt an open enrollment policy using a template developed by the state Department of Education. This would allow students to enroll in schools outside their normal attendance zones. To provide flexibility, individual school boards would set policy details based on local factors. Presently, some S.C. districts allow for intradistrict open enrollment, but most do not. Status: Passed the House – in the Senate Education Committee.
- Livestreaming school board meetings (S.134) – Requires all S.C. school boards to make “reasonable and necessary efforts” to livestream their public meetings. Local school boards must also adopt a livestream policy based on a model by the S.C. State Board of Education. As roughly two-thirds of S.C. school boards already livestream their meetings, the bill would mainly affect those districts which have yet to implement streaming. Status: Passed the Senate – in the House Education and Public Works Committee.
- Non-certified teacher pilot program (S.124) – Creates a program where a school meeting one of the following criteria can hire non-certified teachers in a ratio of up to 10% of its teaching staff: 1) The school has received a rating of “Excellent,” “Below Average,” or “Unsatisfactory” for two consecutive years on its report card; or 2) The school is in a critical geographic area. Non-certified teachers must have a suitable bachelor’s or graduate degree and at least five years of relevant work experience. Status: Passed the Senate – in the House Education and Public Works Committee.
As session lasts about four months (the last regular day of session being May 9), members may also want to watch for new bills and those which have yet to see major movement. Here are just a few:
- Members prohibited from delegating authority (H.4570) – A school board member may not delegate their authority or appoint a proxy to vote or act on their behalf. A member who violates this section is subject to removal by the governor. Status: Pre-filed in November 2023 – assigned to the House Education and Public Works Committee.
- Restriction on funds for association fees (H.4705) – A district or charter school may not use school operating funds to pay or defray the costs of “professional association” or association membership fees on behalf of employees or board members, or reimburse employees or board members for the payment of such fees/dues. In addition, a district employee who pays fees or dues for an association that is directly related to their profession must receive a salary increase based on the amount of fees/dues paid, up to $1,000 per school year. Status: Pre-filed in December 2023 – assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee.
- Uniform school board elections (S.244) – All regular school board elections must be held at the same time as the general election in even-numbered years. Status: On the Senate floor, though currently contested.
As of writing, the only education bill in committee for the coming week is an unnumbered “Read to Succeed” bill in a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday. As the session continues, I will provide more legislative updates.