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EXCLUSIVE: SC House speaker asks districts to quit school-improvement panel

gmelendez@thestate.com

S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas wants rural school districts suing the state to quit a task force that he set up to improve public schools – if they insist on a Feb. 1 deadline for proposals.

In a letter to the school districts’ attorney written Monday, Lucas said that deadline, given lawmakers last week by the S.C. Supreme Court, was “ill-conceived.” The court also ordered the creation of an expert panel to evaluate proposed legislation.

The court issued the order at the request of the school districts, causing Lucas to say the districts were not “working with us in good faith.”

“Because of your actions, months and months of hard work has been potentially placed in jeopardy,” Lucas wrote, calling on the districts to choose between continuing to work with legislators or the court order.

Carl Epps, attorney for the school districts, said he does not see the court’s intervention as a problem and intends to reach out to Lucas soon.

“I have always stated both publicly and privately that I was very appreciative of the work the task force was doing,” Epps said. “At some point in time, we have to agree on a plan to educate these children. And that's what our motion did.”

A spokesperson for Lucas, R-Darlington, said the districts ideally would continue working with the House panel and ask the court to strike the deadline.

The school districts sued the state in 1993, saying they did not have enough money to provide students with a quality education. Last November, the Supreme Court found the state had failed to provide rural students with a “minimally adequate” education as required by the state Constitution.

The court ordered legislators and the school districts to find solutions together. Lucas launched a task force, inviting the school districts and other stakeholders to participate.

Reach Self at (803) 771-8658

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