Lucas appoints task force to work on education reform

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The classroom in Plains, Ga., where President Jimmy Carter attended school.

The classroom in Plains, Ga., where President Jimmy Carter attended school.

House Speaker Jay Lucas today announced the appointment of a special task force to push education reform in light of last year’s state Supreme Court decision that requires the General Assembly and school districts to right longtime educational inequities.

In November, the court issued a split decision in the 21-year-old Abbeville County School District v. State of South Carolina in which poor, rural school districts sued the state for better education.  In the decision, the court required legislators and educators to develop a solution and suggest remedies.

The court highlighted multiple challenges in poor, rural districts — low performance, low achievement rates, inadequate transportation, teacher quality, a fractured school funding formula and the impact of poverty.  Read more about the decision here.

Earlier today, Lucas took a step toward crafting a solution for “substantial, necessary education reforms” by appointing the panel comprised of legislators, educators and professionals.  The panel also will include five people associated with the lawsuit.  They will be announced later, according to Lucas’ office.

“Every child deserves the opportunity to receive an exceptional education that paves the way for tremendous opportunity and lifelong success,” Lucas said in a press release. “Effective education reform requires more than just suggestions from administrators.  It demands valuable input from our job creators who seek to hire trained and proficient employees. All available avenues should be explored to guarantee our students receive a workforce-ready education that prepares each child for the 21st century.”

[REACTION ADDED, 4:30 p.m.] Bernadette Hampton, president of the South Carolina Education Association, said the organization supported the speaker’s new task force, but asked that teachers be included:  “Speaker Lucas is forming a very impressive group.  We are calling on Speaker Lucas to include representatives of the most significant group in education — teachers.  Teachers are those who day in and day out prepare our students to become work-force ready for the 21st Century.  As such, their voice and representation are of the utmost importance.”

Legislators appointed to the panel include state Reps. Rita Allison, a Spartanburg Republican who chairs the House Education and Public Works Committee and who will chair the panel; Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington; Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken; Joe Daning, R-Berkeley; Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg; Jackie Hayes, D-Dillon; and Dwight Loftis, R-Greenville.

Also appointed were state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman; April Allen, Continental Tire Corp.; Lewis Gossett, S.C. Manufacturing Alliance, Rainey Knight, former superintendent of Darlington County Public Schools; and Dr. Jimmie Williamson, head of the S.C. Technical College System.

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