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More classes canceled ahead of South Carolina teacher rally

April 30, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A planned teacher rally on a school day in South Carolina is being criticized by Republican lawmakers as a number of districts have decided to close because so many teachers have asked for the day off.

At least seven districts canceled classes ahead of the Wednesday rally, where thousands of teachers are expected to march on the South Carolina Statehouse, demanding a guaranteed break every day, smaller class sizes and better pay.

The rally is being organized by SC for Ed , created online about a year ago. South Carolina prohibits teacher unions, so the organization asked its members to request time off through official channels.

In the past week, Gov. Henry McMaster, state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman and the leaders of the House and Senate Education Committees — all Republicans — have said teachers are sending the wrong message with the school day rally.

“A small fraction of South Carolina teachers will be leaving their students behind to an empty classroom,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Greg Hembree, who like Spearman plans to spend Wednesday working as a substitute teacher. Hembree is heading back to his home district in Horry County to teach and won’t be in Columbia on Wednesday for the rally.

Teachers said the state has been leaving South Carolina students behind for a lot longer than just one day, sending more money toward property tax relief than education and allowing exceptions to class size rules allowed when the Great Recession more than a decade ago strained budgets to continue even as the economy started booming again.

At least seven South Carolina school districts have canceled classes Wednesday, saying too many teachers asked for the day off to guarantee student safety. Some planned to have all their administrators go into the classroom but still couldn’t fill the gap.

The districts are Richland School District 1, Richland School District 2 and Lexington-Richland District 5 all around Columbia as well as Dorchester District 2 near Charleston and Chester County, Colleton County and Sumter County schools.

All together the districts have about 123,000 of South Carolina’s 781,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The South Carolina House passed a massive bill overhauling the education system, but the Senate has pared the bill down and Hembree said there isn’t time to pass any version before the Legislature ends its session May 9.

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