• 2nd push to end debate on SC education overhaul bill fails - Education Week

    COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A bipartisan group of South Carolina senators again stopped an efforton Wednesday to limit debate on a massive education overhaul bill that has already taken up almost all of the first five weeks of the 18-week session.

    Senate President Harvey Peelerproposed an unusual motionto stop taking new proposals to change the bill, debate the remaining amendments for no more than 12 minutes each and then bring the matter to a vote.

    On the first day of the 2020 session, the Senate put the education bill in a special place on the calendarto be debated before any other matter. It remains there after more than a month.

    “The calendar is clogged," Peeler said, citing more than 70 bills on the 48-page Senate calendar waiting to be taken up.

    Just 20 of the 42 senators on the floor Wednesday went along with Peeler, a Republican from Gaffney, and Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey in a chamber where Republicans have an eight-seat majority. The idea gained eight votes from a similar failed effort last week, but fell well short of the 26 senators needed.

    Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler said limiting debate to 12 minutes on huge, complex proposals was a bad idea. “We can still make this bill better. We have senators from both parties talking to each other," said the Democrat from West Columbia.

    Massey said some senators aren't acting in good faith.

    “It’s pretty clear what we’ve seen over the past five weeks is there are people who don’t want to see a bill pass," said the Republican from Edgefield.

    Massey didn't name names, but much of the frustration in the Senate has surrounded Sen. Mike Fanning, a onetime classroom teacher who has worked to position himself as either the biggest advocate for teachers in the Senate or their only advocate, depending on who is asked,

    “I have not heard of a single teacher who said education is going to be improved" if the overhaul bill is passed, the Democrat from Great Falls said.

    Senators have been working on the bill for a year. It touches every part of education from pre-kindergarten to technical schools. The House passed its own version last March.

    The Senate has dealt with more than 100 proposals to change the bill and at least 40 amendments remain to be taken up. Senators upset with Fanning fear he has dozens if not hundreds more he can unleash to bog the debate down more. Fanning said he is only proposing legitimate, important changes.

    During the five-week debate, senators added up to $3,300 annually to the scholarships for education majors that are paid for by lottery money, doubled the amount of money given to teachers to buy supplies to $550 annually,and added provisions to pay fees for certifications for first-time teachers and provide daily breaks for teachers.

    Fanning pointed out that the Senate hasn't even debated part of the bill to give the state more latitude and power to take over poorly-performing school districts.

    The education debate is on the back burner this week as the Senate Finance Committee holds daylong hearings on whether to sell state-owned utility Santee Cooper. That big issue will end up on the Senatefloorby mid-March,putting even more pressure on the education bill if it is unresolved.

    “For five weeks, we had the exclusive attention focusing on educational reform issues. I’ve had conversations with people who said they have been waiting for 20 years to have the Senate devote its attention to education issues," Massey said. “We need to pass this bill.”

    About a dozen Republican senators huddled on the Senate floor after they adjourned following a 15-minute session Wednesday, some of their voices sounding frustrated as they tried to figure out their next step.

    Fanning headed to the Statehouse lobby to talk to teachers and other supporters. He said other senators neededto remember that he wanted to include teachers more when the bill was writtenand that he wasn't the one to put it on the top spot in the calendar to the exclusion of other issues.

    “It’s not fun being me right now because there is a lot of frustration in the Senate," Fanning said. “All I can do as one senator is make this bill better."


    Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP

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    February 20, 2020 at 09:13PM

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