House panel advances legislation aimed at addressing education-equity lawsuit

COLUMBIA — A House education panel on Wednesday advanced several bills aimed at fixing South Carolina’s rural education ills.

Six bills cleared the House Education and Public Works K-12 Subcommittee. The bills range from measures allowing the state to take control if a school district is failing financially, to redefining the expectations of a South Carolina high school graduate.

Panel chairwoman Rep. Rita Allison, R-Lyman, said she’s hoping the bills make it through committee quickly so that they can be in the queue for debate on the floor when the House returns from furlough Feb. 23.

The bills are the work of the House Education Policy Review and Reform Task Force, which has spent the past year chipping away at how to respond to the state Supreme Court’s ruling in the 22-year-old Abbeville County School District versus the South Carolina lawsuit over deficient education in the state.

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The high court in November 2014 ordered the Legislature to come up with a solution that provides at least basic education for students in South Carolina’s impoverished rural areas. Lawmakers have until the end of the 2016 legislative session to come up with a plan for the court’s approval.

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 843-708-5891.