COLUMBIA - A busy House panel approved several measures on Tuesday, including updating South Carolina's sex education law, and ensuring cursive writing and the memorization of multiplication tables are taught in schools.
The sex education bill was amended to ensure certified teachers will be instructing students about sexual education and health with information that is medically accurate. It was debated by members of the House Education and Public Works Committee on Tuesday, before several members antsy for its passing, pushed for a vote.
The bill was introduced during the 2013 legislative session by Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Six Mile, and Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville. It would require reproductive health education to stress the importance of abstinence and contraceptive information must be given in the context of "future family planning."
The law would also ensure school districts comply by requiring they hand over an annual report. Districts face a withholding of 1 percent of their money until they turn over their reports. They will also have to publish on their website information about the materials being used in the classroom.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, a co-sponsor of the bill, said it's time for members of the legislature to realize it is the 21st century, and that the bill simply aims to teach about sexually transmitted diseases, not just pregnancy prevention.
"None of us is for forcing or allowing teenagers to engage in sexual intercourse," Cobb-Hunter said. "But a lot of them are already engaging in it without the benefit of sound medical information."
The passing of the bill by the panel surprised a few lawmakers, especially after it was highly debated while it was on the subcommittee level. In February, a tie vote left the bill in limbo, after receiving strong opposition. During Tuesday's vote, it passed 10-6.
Meanwhile, the Back to Basics in Education Act of 2013 passed with little opposition. It requires adding cursive writing and the memorization of multiplication tables to the list of required subjects of instruction in South Carolina's public schools.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Dwight Loftis, R-Greenville. Cursive writing will not be tested, however, regardless of the law, which would allow districts to pick the materials to be used.
Charleston County School District teaches math according to the 2010 standards, which require multiplication fluency, said Cathy DeMers, K-12 Math Specialist for the district, in March.
In the third grade, students must be able to multiply single digits, such as 9 times 9. By the fifth grade, students must fluidly multiply using the standard algorithm for multi-digit multiplication; in other words, they must be able to solve 782 times 94, for example.
Rep. Joe Daning, R-Goose Creek, a co-sponsor of the bill, has told The Post and Courier he believes in cursive writing and in learning the basics; he voted in favor of the bill once again on Tuesday. Though there was concern about how much time would be allocated for teachers to teach cursive writing, the bill passed with two dissenting votes.
Both bills now head to the House floor.
"I think the bill will get a discussion in the House," said Daning of the Back to Basics Act. "I don't think it'll be much, but it will go."
Cynthia Roldan can be reached at 708-5891.