SC Senate takes on cursive writing, sex ed, GED testing & more

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

SC senators balk at $28M cost for cursive writing

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- A Senate panel narrowly advanced a bill requiring South Carolina's school districts to teach students how to write in cursive by fifth grade after questioning its $27.6 million price tag.

Senators sent it to the full Education Committee Thursday on a 3-2 vote. The state budget office estimates districts would have to spend a combined $25 million on instructional materials and $2.5 million on travel for teacher training.

Republican Sen. Ray Cleary of Murrells Inlet says that's ridiculous. He says every elementary school teacher should know how to write in cursive, and students only need a pad of paper.

State standards haven't required cursive writing in the classroom since 2008.

The subcommittee postponed the mandate's effective date by one year, to require the instruction starting in 2015-16.

Bill allowing HPV vaccination clears Senate panel

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Legislation seeking to allow South Carolina to offer free HPV vaccinations to underinsured and uninsured sixth graders to prevent cancer has advanced in the state Senate.

A Medical Affairs Committee on Thursday passed by a 7-2 vote a measure which would also fund publication of brochures to educate parents on the cancer risks posed by the disease, which is transmitted through skin contact.

The Centers for Disease Control and National Cancer Institute say the failure to vaccinate children for human papillomavirus is to blame for the recent rise in cervical and throat cancers.

Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed offering HPV vaccines two years ago despite having sponsored an optional vaccination for seventh grade girls in 2007. Spokesman Doug Mayer says Haley still opposes what she believes is an unfunded mandate.

Bill would provide diploma alternative to GED test

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- A Senate panel has advanced a bill giving South Carolina residents another option for earning a high school equivalency diploma.

The bill sent to the full Education Committee on Thursday would provide adults seeking a diploma at least one pencil-and-paper alternative to a General Educational Development exam. The GED exam can now be taken only on computer.

Republican Rep. Joshua Putnam of Piedmont says that hinders access in rural parts of the state where technology is lagging. Putnam says it's also a problem for older adults who don't feel comfortable with computers. His bill passed the House unanimously two weeks ago.

The bill says 418,000 working-age South Carolinians between 18 and 64 years old do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Panel advances bill updating SC's sex ed law

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- A Senate panel has advanced a bill that updates South Carolina's 26-year-old sex-education law by requiring the teaching of medically accurate information.

The bill sent to the full Senate Education Committee on Thursday also tries to improve school districts' compliance by withholding one percent of their funding until they file reports. Currently, many districts do not fill out an annual survey on what information is taught and in what grades.

Republican Rep. B.R. Skelton of Six Mile says his bill seeks to reduce the level of teen pregnancy, which is costly to both the teen and taxpayers. Skelton says any rational person should want students to receive accurate information about their bodies.

Greenville Sen. Mike Fair did not vote, saying the bill's definition of medically accurate is too vague.

SC Senate bill targeting child sex abuse advances

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- A bill aimed at stopping more children from being sexually abused in South Carolina has advanced in the Senate.

The measure that advanced Thursday to the Senate Education Committee directs state education officials to develop age-appropriate lessons on sex abuse awareness and prevention.

Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell says the lessons would let children know it's OK to tell their teacher if they're being abused. The Lancaster Democrat says the hope is that abused children will report what's happening to them and get a chance at a normal life. She says children often think they can't tell an adult because the abuser is a family member or friend.

She stressed the bill has nothing to do with sex education, but rather abuse education.

The bill passed the House 99-1 last month.

SC bill seeks to accelerate college construction

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- A bill that would save colleges time and taxpayer money by speeding up reviews of construction projects has advanced in the South Carolina House.

A committee on Wednesday approved the measure, which would bypass months of unnecessary delays by determining the length of reviews based on a school's bond rating.

Under the bill, a school with good financial standing could save several months and wouldn't need prior approval to determine exact costs for a project.

The current five-step approval process involving two agency boards and a legislative review committee adds at least six months to any proposed construction project.

The bill which passed the Senate 37-4 last month was spurred by the desire of Clemson University to create an enterprise division to oversee construction projects and attract more private funding.

SC Senate approves budget plan for 2014-15

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina state senators have approved a $7 billion spending plan for state taxes after again rejecting Democrats' push to expand Medicaid.

The Senate voted 38-6 on Wednesday to send their budget proposal back to the House. A conference committee will be appointed to work out the differences in the two chambers' plans.

The Senate version expands full-day 4-year-old kindergarten for at-risk students to 14 additional districts.

Democrats fought unsuccessfully to expand Medicaid eligibility to more poor adults as called for in the federal health care overhaul. Republicans did not budge from their repeated refusal last year.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the law made it an option rather than a mandate.

Gov. Nikki Haley has repeatedly said as long as she's governor, that won't happen.

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