Guest Editorial: Why I Support Education Bill 3759


It’s not too often that being the youngest member of General Assembly gives me insights that my colleagues lack, but as the Legislature begins to work on education reform, being the youngest member gives me a unique perspective on this important undertaking. As I have seen firsthand many of the changes our school systems have gone through in the last two decades, I understand why changes are needed. This is why I am supporting House Bill 3759: “South Carolina Career Opportunity and Access for All Act”, a long-overdue education reform initiative which is vital to the future of our state.

One of the best things about this legislation is the bi-partisan support is has received. Over two dozen legislators from both parties, and from across the state, have signed on to sponsor this legislation. Legislators from both big cities and rural areas have signed onto this bill because they agree it’s time to come together to get the reform job done!

Here are some of the most important parts of this legislation, as well as why I’m excited to support them:

Passing Only Students Who Are Ready

For years, South Carolina has been passing students in the third grade who are unable to read at a third-grade level. This doesn’t help the student and can even help set them up for failure later on. This legislation gets rid of this provision and tightens other guidelines, so students are not advanced to the next grade until they are ready.

Failing School Districts

If a school district has four straight years of failing performance ratings, the State Department of Education will step in and take control of its schools. The Department will then study how to improve the performance of that district’s schools, either by consolidating that district with a neighboring district or reconstitute it as a Transformation District. This is no different than when a business is failing and can’t stay open is forced to either clean house or merge with a more successful business.

Requiring School Boards to Adopt Ethics Policies

While most school boards have good and dedicated citizens serving on them, some school boards send members to out-of-state “retreats” to places like Las Vegas – places many of us can’t afford to go to. This bill will require school boards to adopt ethics policies and require members to attend ethics training. School boards have control over around double the amount of tax dollars that county councils do every year (just look at your tax bills!) but are often forgotten about when people think of corruption or mismanagement. If school districts can’t run like a business and with transparency, then how can they deliver the results we deserve?

Increasing Teacher Salaries

Paying our teachers completive wages is key to achieving quality results from our schools. This legislation would raise the starting base teacher salary in South Carolina from $32,000 to $35,000 a year (some school districts supplement those salaries). A pay raise for all teachers will be included in the state budget in March.

Empowering Teachers

Teachers far too often have been ignored in our school and not been given the ability to speak out when they feel something is wrong. This bill would publish teacher satisfaction surveys on their schools so bad principals and management can be weeded out. Sunshine is a good way to find bad things and encourage initiative by those who work most closely with our children.

Eliminating Excessive Testing

I was one of those students who did not test well, even though I excelled in other areas and was able to be a double-major in college while working. While testing is important, so are other parts of education curricula. This bill would eliminate three of the mandated state standardized tests in elementary schools. Teachers, especially those in elementary schools, should be educating our students in broad and effective methods, instead of being forced to continually teach to a test. Giving our talented teachers more freedom to address the needs of their students will lead to better results.

Awarding Lottery Dollars to Industry Certificates

The state lottery does not provide funding to students who are seeking a industrial and trade certificates, which can open the door to careers as lucrative as some which require college degrees. As there are many paths to success in life, these certificates provide young people more avenues to succeed and help fill some of the largest shortages in our state’s workforce. Providing lottery funding to help pay for these programs is key to show the importance of these certificates and incentivize young people to seek the paths which they are best suited for.

Empowering High School Career Centers

This bill would regionalize high school career centers to help them better partner with our technical colleges to offer more career certificates so that students who leave in the 12th Grade can go right to work instead of spending an additional two years at a technical school. If a student knows what they want to do in high school and wants to focus on getting ready for that career, we shouldn’t hold them back. There used to be a time that a student could graduate from high school “ready to work” and this legislation helps return our high schools to that higher standard.


This is a large piece of legislation with much to talk about. Things like a Student Bill or Rights and a Zero to 20 Committee to further align education from early childhood to secondary education will also promote quality and get more results for our tax dollars. As this bill moves forward, there will be opportunities to refine and improve it. As our state’s future will be heavily affected by the success – or failure – of these efforts, we all need to be involved.

Brandon Newton, State Representative Lancaster and York

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