Stack of books, stationery and education supplies on wooden desk

Board members with Greenville County Schools don’t want to take an official position on two massive education reform bills in the South Carolina House of Representatives and the Senate — primarily because the two bills have a few major differences and the Senate version is expected to keep changing until it goes to the Senate floor for a vote.

Instead, the board adopted a resolution on education issues it would like to see addressed once the two bills finally merge into one piece of legislation.

The bills — H.3759 and S.419 — started out identical before the House passed its version with major changes on March 7. It’s now in the Senate’s Education Committee before it comes to a full Senate vote.

“There are some significant differences between the House version that has passed and the Senate bill, which is still being worked out,” said Derek Lewis, board member with Greenville County Schools.

The resolution that was adopted by Greenville County Schools on March 12 has six components the board wants from the General Assembly in the legislation:

“The resolution begins with the assumption that the strongest contributor to a highly effective education is a quality instructor in the classroom, and second only to administrative support that is provided to that teacher in the classroom,” Lewis said.

The resolution affirms increasing teacher pay to the Southeastern average, but by the same token, asks that the state pay for the raises and any other mandates. The resolution also asks the state to ensure teacher pay remains above the Southeastern average in future years.

“Every year, they should be required to go back in and adjust those salaries so that we are continually pinning it to the Southeastern average,” Lewis said.

The House version of the bill has drastic measures in place for districts consistently ranking “Unsatisfactory” on the state report cards — dissolve their boards and hand them to the state. The resolution from Greenville County Schools doesn’t criticize this section outright, but it does re-affirm that “local control of schools” is preferable, and it proposes more opportunities for board training.

“Increasingly, the [state] Department of Ed has gone in and taken over schools, and they’ve removed boards,” board member Lisa Wells said at the meeting. “The proactive measure should be that they ramp up the amount of training and orientation and support they provide to the local governing bodies and not just ignore that responsibility, and then come in and take over when they don’t like what’s happening.”

The resolution takes a jab at the Zero to Twenty Committee in the House bill, which Lewis said is now being referred to as the Special Counsel on Revitalizing Education (SCORE), as well as the Education Oversight Committee, by calling on the state to “remove unnecessary state-level bureaucracies of political appointees.”

The resolution calls for the state to give districts the flexibility to opt out of all state tests that aren’t federally mandated — the House version of the bill eliminates only some standardized science and social studies testing.

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