Overhauling South Carolina’s K-12 education system is expected to be the General Assembly’s top priority when legislators return to Columbia/on Tuesday for the start of a two-year-long session.
Here is a look at some of the key players in the education debate:
1. House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington
Few in the debate will carry as much weight as Lucas, who is working on comprehensive reform proposal that will address K-12 spending and policy, said chief of staff Michael Anzelmo. Details have not been publicly released. But Lucas has met with Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, who now leads the state’s powerful budget-writing committee.
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2. Gov. Henry McMaster, R-Columbia
Having the governor in your corner to push reform will prove important in the General Assembly. McMaster is expected to make education a focus of his State of the State address and executive budget, both later his month, spokesman Brian Symmes said.
3. The state’s more than 53,000 K-12 teachers:
Teachers say they will make sure S.C. lawmakers hear them this session. After watching teachers walk off the job in other red states last year, S.C. teachers say they want lawmakers to take them seriously — increasing their pay and removing classroom burdens. That effort has been helped by the creation of a new group, SCforEd, which has built a large social media following.
4. S.C. schools Superintendent Molly Spearman, R-Saluda:
Spearman has asked lawmakers to spend close to $155 million to pay for a 5 percent raise for teachers, bringing them to the Southeastern average. Spearman, a former state representative, has sway with Gov. McMaster, who asked her to play a role in his campaign last year.
5. State Rep. Rita Allison, R-Spartanburg, and state Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry
The respective chairs of the House and Senate education panels will be charged with passing any education reform proposal. Allison’s committee will review Lucas’ plan. But Hembree will be tasked with building consensus among senators.