S.C. efforts aiming to get state’s schools back on track

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 10:42 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina’s Education Oversight Committee is encouraging the state to use sales-tax revenue to get schools back on track from pandemic learning loss.

The committee made its recommendations Monday for Education Improvement Act funding, from the state’s one-cent sale tax that specifically supports public education.

EOC Executive Director Matthew Ferguson said this year, there is about an additional $90 million in EIA funding from this tax.

“South Carolina has performed much better than I think many people expected. I think we all thought we would be receiving less funds during COVID, but that was not actually the case last year or this year,” Ferguson said.

The Education Oversight Committee is recommending the state prioritize three categories in using this sales-tax revenue in the next budget.

The first targets high-quality data to inform decisions, with recommendations of putting $3.5 million toward educational data dashboards, $3.2 million toward PowerSchool upgrades, and $1 million toward development of a school quality survey.

The second category focuses on high-quality instruction and materials for college and career readiness. In that group are recommendations of $50 million for one-on-one and small-group tutoring, $33.2 million for charter schools, and $20 million for additional instructional materials, among other recommended allocations.

The EOC’s final recommendations focus on high-quality teacher development, with spending targeting recruitment and retention.

That includes $34 million to provide additional paid training days on reading instruction for teachers in the state’s lowest-performing schools.

“To be identified as a Tier 2 or a Tier 3 Palmetto Literacy Project school, at least a third of your kids are not meeting standard, and if you’re Tier 3, then 50% of your kids are not meeting standard,” Ferguson said. “So our assumption would be that most of those teachers would need additional support to bring kids up to level.”

According to the EOC, less than half of South Carolina’s middle- and elementary-school students are at their grade level in math and reading, in now the third school year disrupted by the pandemic.

These recommendations will next be sent to leaders in the General Assembly and the governor for their consideration in the next state budget.

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