THE MORNING BUZZ: Happy Education Reform Day!

Posted by ANDREW SHAIN on January 8, 2014 

ISTOCK

— Gov. Nikki Haley finally introduces her K-12 education reform plan Wednesday at a West Columbia school.

The initiative is expected to become a cornerstone of the governor's re-election platform this year along with job-creation and government reform.

Though she's hardly alone.

Her likely opponent has a few ideas himself (see below) and several state lawmakers pre-filed K-12 education bills. College tuition also is expected to be campaign fodder statewide this year.

On her K-12 plan, Haley has spent the past year meeting with stakeholders in developing the plan that is expected to include more classroom technology, teacher support, literacy aid and assistance to poorer school districts.

Education leaders asked Haley to ensure every S.C. school has wireless internet access, make funding more equitable, raise teacher salaries and improve teacher training.

What remains unclear is how the state will pay for the reforms.

Sheheen's teacher pay boost bill

Haley's Democratic challenger, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, has an education proposal of his own as the governor formally unveils her plan. From The State's Adam Beam:

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, the likely Democratic candidate for governor, said Tuesday he will introduce legislation next week to raise the salaries of S.C. public school teachers to match the national average.

Sheheen’s proposal, made the day before Republican Gov. Nikki Haley introduces her education-reform plan, is in tandem with the Camden Democrat’s other major education-reform proposal, expanding the state’s optional 4-year-old kindergarten program to all 46 counties.

“There are two parts to improving education. One is access. The other is quality,” Sheheen said. “Having a great quality teacher in the classroom means you pay teachers well.”

The average S.C. teacher was paid $48,375 at the end of the 2013 school year, while the national average was $55,418, according to the state Department of Education.

State House meetings this week

• Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.: Energy Advisory Council of the State Regulation of Public Utilities Review Committee (Gressette Room 105, Agenda)

• Wednesday, 10 a.m.: Ways and Means Higher Education, Technical, and Cultural Budget Subcommittee (Blatt Room 321, Agenda)

• Wednesday, 2 p.m.: Ways and Means Higher Education, Technical, and Cultural Budget Subcommittee (Blatt Room 321, Agenda)

• Thursday, 11 a.m.: Joint Transportation Review Committee (Gressette Room 209, Agenda)

• Thursday, Noon Ways and Means Legislative, Executive and Local Government Subcommittee (Blatt Room 511, Agenda)

• Thursday, 1 p.m.: Governor's Nuclear Advisory Council, Gressette Room 207

(Note: Meeting days, times and locations are subject to change.)

Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule today

• 10 a.m. – Join S.C. Motor Vehicles director Kevin Shwedo, Donate Life South Carolina executive director Tracy Armstrong and LifePoint president and chief executive Nancy A. Kay for a press conference to announce a new donor designation campaign, State House

• 3:30 p.m. – Present K-12 education reform initiative, Brookland-Cayce Grammar 1, West Columbia

See more of her schedule this week.

Spewing over spuds

A public meeting about how much water a large potato farm can draw attracted a large crowd Tuesday in Aiken. From The State's Sammy Fretwell:

An angry crowd ripped state regulators and politicians Tuesday night for allowing a large potato farm to siphon billions of gallons of water from the Edisto River basin without telling the public.

“These people are sucking the water out,” area resident Jim Bassett said of the potential impact the potato farm will have on the Edisto’s narrow South Fork. “I’ll be able to walk across it.”

A crowd estimated at 350 people spent more than two hours listening to state regulators explain why officials did not stop Walther Farms from setting up shop along the banks of the Edisto River’s South Fork, a small river that runs through Aiken County and includes the headwaters of the ACE Basin nature preserve.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control had no choice but to approve the first phase of Walther’s operation because South Carolina law specifically exempts agriculture from many requirements in the state’s 2010 surface water withdrawal law, agency officials said during the meeting at a local electric cooperative.

Buzz Clicks

S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis threw more jabs at the state's Retirement System Investment Commission and its chief operating officer. Speaking at a meeting of the First Monday Republican Lunch Group on Hilton Head Island, Loftis called the commission's work "sinful" and says it "lacks a moral core." Full story

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice said he was researching the impact being felt by residents in South Carolina, whose extended unemployment benefits expired last year, before saying whether he supports reinstating them. “I’m not staking out a hard position on that one,” he said. Full story

S.C. Rep. Mia McLeod, D-Richland, published her take on the upcoming legislative session to her website on Tuesday. She did not hold back. "In South Carolina, when the umbilical cord is cut, so is the concern and compassion." Full story

A state lawmaker has announced plans to file a bill in response to escalating flood insurance rates for thousands of South Carolinians, including many in Beaufort County. State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis' proposed legislation would prevent banks from foreclosing on homeowners who are current on their mortgage but cannot pay flood insurance premiums. Full story

State Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, who launched a campaign for lieutenant governor and is a vocal advocate for cervical cancer vaccinations, will deliver the keynote address at the first-ever Cervical Cancer-Free South Carolina Summit in Charleston this week. Full story

Former University of South Carolina football player Kenny Miles was charged Tuesday with providing false information to law enforcement after first telling deputies he was shot in a November robbery and later changing his story to say he had tried to commit suicide, according to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. He was working for the S.C. Attorney General's office at the time of the shooting. Full story

A study says Columbia is big enough for two baseball teams. Building a new stadium for minor league baseball on the former site of the S.C. State Hospital on Bull Street would not adversely impact the two-time national champion University of South Carolina Gamecocks baseball team, experts who conducted a feasibility study for the City of Columbia told city council Tuesday. The $42 million, 8,000-seat ballpark is the centerpiece of the 165-acre redevelopment plan of the Bull Street property. Mayor Steve Benjamin and a developer are pushing for the new stadium. A public hearing before City Council on the issue has been scheduled for Jan. 21, before Benjamin’s State of the City speech. Full story

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