Education overhaul bill set for debate in SC Senate

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina senators will return to the Statehouse this week with a long, complex debate in front of them.

Senate leaders have said they will take as much time as needed to debate the education overhaul bill they have been working on for nearly a year.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Greg Hembree spent Wednesday and Thursday thoroughly explaining all 59 sections of the bill and answering questions.

Starting Tuesday, Hembree expects senators to begin suggesting and voting on changes to the proposal. Some Senate leaders said the debate could last a few weeks.

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

The House passed its own bill last March. The Senate bill has substantial changes including letting school start earlier and adding five teacher workdays to the school year if lawmakers agree to pay for them.

Teacher group SC for Ed is encouraging its members to call senators and have them scrap the bill and start their overhaul efforts from scratch.

Hembree, a Republican from Horry County, said this is just the start of reform efforts, with items like vouchers and class size possibly taken up in separate bills later.