South Carolina Senate begins education overhaul bill debate

January 15, 2020 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina senators started their debate on a massive public education overhaul bill Wednesday with a lengthy explanation of what all is in the bill.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Greg Hembree promised to take as much time as needed to explain all 59 sections of the bill and answer questions. He spoke about two hours and plans to be back Thursday.

The bill involves schools of every type and grade level, from pre-kindergarten to technical schools. It covers administrative issues ranging from standardized testing to how schools are run.

Supporters said the bill modernizes and cleans up education rules in the state, but additional proposals like reducing class sizes, creating a teacher bill of rights and providing public money for people to spend for private schools will need separate bills.

“This is not sweeping education reform,” said Hembree, a Republican lawyer from Horry County.

Hembree asked senators to let him speak and then read the bill over the weekend before starting to offer their changes Tuesday. He asked them to limit amendments so the bill doesn’t become a Christmas tree of pet projects.

“We’ve been working on this so long, I don’t think one more weekend is going to matter,” Hembree said.

The House passed its own education overhaul bill last March.