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Lucas at Darlington forum: SC committed to public education

December 9, 2017 GMT

DARLINGTON, S.C. – House Speaker Jay Lucas said Friday that the House took the Abbeville lawsuit seriously and is committed to public education.

Lucas was one of the panelists at the Darlington County School District’s Teacher Forum on Friday afternoon at the Darlington Country Club.

In the Abbeville suit, the S.C. Supreme Court found in 2014 that the state failed to provide a “minimally adequate” education to some poor districts. However, in November the court ruled to end its oversight of lawmakers.

“What we did at the House is [take] the position that minimally adequate didn’t mean anything,” Lucas said. “We want to provide a 21st-century education to every student in South Carolina.”

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After the initial ruling, the House established a task force that included plaintiffs and legislators. Lucas said the court commended the work of the House task force.

Lucas said legislators have worked on capital improvement funding legislation that would help poor districts.

“The fact that Abbeville has gone away certainly is not going to remove our commitment,” Lucas said.

Lucas said consolidating smaller districts is something else to consider.

Spearman agreed.

“I believe that we have some districts in this state who have dwindled down to being so small that they cannot function well,” Spearman said.

Spearman said there are districts that have fewer than 1,000 students. When districts are this small, it is not financially prudent to have an administration, Spearman said.

Panelists also said teacher shortage is a crucial problem, and the state and district are striving to make teaching an attractive profession by increasing salaries and providing support.

Spearman said she is leading a task force to look at teacher recruitment and retention.

“What we’ve learned is teachers will stay if they have a good boss,” Spearman said. “If they have a good principal, if they have a good superintendent, they’ll stay in place, so bringing more focus on the leadership and the importance of good leadership in school and in the district to support teachers is part of this retention.”

Spearman said the starting salary for new teachers recently increased. While that is a step in the right direction, she said, more can be done for overall salary increases.

Jamie Morphis, chairman of the Darlington County Board of Education, said using technology can also help with teacher shortage. He said exceptional teachers’ lessons could be streamed live to other classes.

Other panelists were Dr. Bill Boyd, acting superintendent for Darlington County School District; Sen. Gerald Malloy; Rep. Robert Williams; Rep. Terry Alexander; and Dr. Rainey Knight, director of special programs, S.C. Education Oversight Committee. Panelists received questions before the forum to prepare their responses.