In last week’s update, we mentioned that Speaker of the House Jay Lucas and the Senate Education Committee dropped companion education reform legislation.
There is a lot to digest in the 84-page bill. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Creates a “Student’s Bill of Rights” which says each South Carolina student deserves access to qualified teachers, excellent leadership in schools and a system that prioritizes the success of all students
- Emphasizes reading proficiency by third grade and would hold students from grade promotion until they are proficient readers
- Incentivizes businesses to hire teachers in the summer by creating a $2,000 teacher employment tax credit
- Consolidates underperforming school districts that have fewer than 1,000 students
- Grants free college tuition to the children of high-performing teachers who choose to teach in underperforming schools
- Allows high-performing schools to hire industry specialists without a teaching certification to comprise up to 25% of faculty. The intent is to get more experienced professionals in the hard-to-fill instructor roles like engineering, computer science, welding, HVAC, etc.
- Creates a committee to recommend additional education improvements
- While not in this package, the Speaker intends to phase in a 10% raise for all teachers in the state.
- This will be done in the budgeting process
Fair warning – this bill language is only the starting point. The House K-12 Education subcommittee had their first meeting about the bill this week and have already scheduled two additional meetings in early February to hear testimony from students, teachers and parents. There will be multiple hearings, and likely several amendments, before any votes. We are following this legislation closely and will keep you informed as it moves through the process.
In other legislative news, on Thursday, the bill to fully exempt military retiree pay from state income tax (H.3135) was approved by a unanimous 106-0 vote on the floor of the House. That bill now moves to the Senate. When successfully passed, this will be a big win for veterans in the state and a boost for companies looking to attract and retain military retirees in their workforce. Currently, 38 states, including all of our Southeastern neighbors, fully exempt military retiree pay from income tax. This bill will help South Carolina employers compete to hire more skilled, working-age military retirees. We will keep you up to date as the bill moves through the Senate.
Finally, the Angel Investor bill (H.3210) was reassigned to the House Ways and Means Committee. This Chamber-priority bill helps strengthen the entrepreneurial environment in the state by offering a tax credit for investment in South Carolina based startups. Representative Dwight Loftis, the primary sponsor of the legislation, hopes for a subcommittee hearing in the next couple of weeks. We will continue to push for that hearing to try and get it out of Ways and Means before the House begins budget deliberations.