South Carolina lawmakers must finish work on creating options for K-12 students

Horse racing, teacher raises and a budget full of money. South Carolina lawmakers have plenty to debate before the end of the legislative session on June 15. But parents are hoping lawmakers won’t go home before they finally give K-12 students more quality learning options.

Recently, the SC House of Representatives completed budget negotiations, completing the process within hours. They approved a proposal containing billions in new federal taxpayer spending, as well as provisions that raise teachers’ salaries and give bonuses to state employees.

Lawmakers in both houses are also considering legalizing horse racing betting as another way to boost state revenue. But as they debate the merits of racetrack betting, South Carolina parents and K-12 students are left sitting in the stands, waiting for state officials to bet families know. what is best for a child’s future.

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Lawmakers are considering proposals allowing students to use college savings accounts to choose how and where they learn. As readers of reimaginED know, some residents of neighboring North Carolina can already use their child’s share of state education spending to meet a child’s unique learning needs. These funds, deposited in individual accounts, can be used to buy textbooks, hire a personal tutor, find an educational therapist, pay private school tuition, and more.

College savings accounts allow families in North Carolina (and 10 other states, including Florida, with similar account options) to personalize their child’s learning experience. Parents and students can choose a new school and get help with challenging lessons and pay for textbooks and learning materials to challenge their student or help them catch up with their peers.

While SC officials finished the budget in record time this year, they continued to drag their feet on bringing college savings accounts to families across the state. Since 2017, lawmakers in North Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Indiana have successfully passed their constituents’ counts. Lawmakers in Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arizona had already made the accounts available to thousands of students.

Despite all this progress elsewhere, the movement within the South Carolina legislature has stalled over the years.

Currently, South Carolina lawmakers are considering two proposals — one in each chamber — that would provide families and their students with quality education opportunities similar to counts in those other states.

The proposal before state senators, in particular, would give students a range of choices, like the stories described in North Carolina, Florida and elsewhere. The Senate proposal would allow students to choose a new school and/or a set of services, including personal tutors and computer equipment to help with online course delivery. House and Senate lawmakers have yet another chance to complete what can only be seen as unfinished business for the state families.

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South Carolina students need help now. In one of the state’s largest cities, Greenville, the number of students earning failing grades is reported to have tripled in 2020. Student achievement among those attending schools along the I-95 corridor — the a topic of much discussion in recent years due to disputes over South Carolina education spending — still lagging statewide averages, according to research from the Palmetto Promise Institute. Statewide, there is a 30 point difference between white and black students in 4and reading notes.

The need for action for viable education options is urgent.

State families shouldn’t have to wait another year to see how many other states create account options for K-12 students before South Carolina takes action. Legislators have shown they can move quickly to formulate a budget. They should apply the same urgency to helping students.

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