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What’s in S.C. school bill that McMaster is set to sign?

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster(WRDW)
Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 1:40 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - By the time Gov. Henry McMaster signs a new bill requiring five-day in-person learning into law this week, school districts across the state will already be ready. But teachers will benefit from two other key parts of the bill.

The South Carolina House approved S.704, a Senate measure Wednesday that mandates that all South Carolina school districts offer five-day in-person instruction by Monday.

At this point, the South Carolina Department of Education says only three school districts are not offering five-day in-person learning. Those districts are Colleton County, Greenville County and Hampton School District 2.

All three of those districts plan to resume five-day in-person instruction in their schools on Monday anyway, Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said.

But two other key facets of the bill represent changes that will benefit current and retired teachers.

The first prevents “dual modality” teaching without extra compensation. That means that for teachers who are asked to teach both in-person and virtually, they will have to be compensated for the extra time they spend preparing online classes. The bill states teachers will not be allowed to teach both in-person and virtually at the same time “unless it is reasonable and necessary due to extreme and unavoidable circumstances in order to ensure that all students have access to highly qualified instructors.”

The second would allow retired teachers who return to the classroom to ease teacher shortages would be able to earn up to $50,000 per year without having to change their retirement allowance.

The bill also stipulates that all school districts must offer in-person learning next school year.

“Every family must be given the option of sending their child to school five days a week face to face and the science shows that this can be done safely in every community,” Spearman said in a statement on the bill. “I am thankful for the educators who have been making this option a reality for many throughout this school year and look forward to the Governor signing this bill into law, ensuring every school will be fully open for in-person learning now and into the future.”

McMaster is expected to sign the bill into law within the next two days.

Also in the news ...

The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday set aside money for a 2% raise for state employees and a $1,000 raise for all teachers as the panel approved its version of the roughly $10 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that starts on July 1. South Carolina lawmakers have nearly $1.7 billion extra to spend in the 2021-22 fiscal year. Senators on the Finance Committee were given a three-page typed list of more than 65 new items where the extra money could go.

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