COLUMBIA, S.C. - Legislation to boost reading proficiency of South Carolina's K-12 students has advanced in the House with a number of changes.
An education subcommittee on Tuesday recommended the 'Read to Succeed' bill by a 6-2 vote. The House and Senate have already passed different versions of the measure.
The subcommittee removed Senate language that would have directed a public access channel, ETV, and the Department of Education to provide free professional development courses required for teacher recertification.
Kathy Maness, Executive Director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association, said there is concern among teachers that they could end up paying for what is essentially an unfunded mandate.
"If you are going to make them do it, you need to pay for it," Maness said.
Lawmakers also dropped the number of literacy classes required for middle-school teachers from six hours to three hours. The classes would train teachers to identify and help children who are not reading at appropriate grade levels. South Carolina teachers currently have to take a total of 120 hours within five years to renew their certificates.
The amended Senate bill also would allow parents to appeal holding children back a grade if teachers believe they are struggling with reading.
Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, put forward the changes to reflect the language of the 'Read to Succeed' bill passed in the House last month.
"Many people aren't aware, educators are constantly involved in refining and continuing their education. It's not a simple matter of obtaining a bachelor's or master's or even some kind of teacher certification," Govan said. "They have to amass so many hours of credit during the time period in order to have their certificates or teaching credentials renewed."
Sponsoring Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Beaufort, voted for the amended bill but only after voting against the amendments that he said watered down the professional-development requirements.
Patrick said teachers currently are not equipped with the training to ensure students are proficient in reading. He believes professional-development training for teachers and interventions to diagnose students' reading levels are mutually reliant upon each other.
Patrick asked, "If a teacher isn't trained to identify, assess and manage a child who is identified as not reading on grade level, how can they provide the proper intervention to get them reading on grade level?"
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