Updated: May 23
A well-educated workforce is essential for a long-lasting, vibrant economy. That is why we made education reform a pillar of our agenda at the beginning of this session. Furthermore, good schools help reduce poverty by providing opportunities for individuals to access better-paying jobs and higher levels of economic success. In a rapidly changing world, education is critical to ensure that our workforce remains competitive and the economy can continue to thrive. This week my colleagues and I continued to work at repairing and reforming our education system so that South Carolina has a competitive advantage that will foster innovation, stimulate economic growth, and ultimately lead to greater prosperity now and for future generations.
Education and Workforce Readiness:
On Wednesday the House passed H.4060, a companion bill to the Statewide Education and Workforce Development Act that passed earlier this month. This bill establishes statewide workforce readiness goals and makes changes related to dual enrollment and credit transfer between institutions of higher learning. It establishes a uniform system of dual enrollment for college courses taken while students are still in high school. The Department of Employment and Workforce will provide free and accessible information on the economic value of college majors to the State Department of Education and public school districts. This will ensure students are fully informed of their education and career options.
Open Enrollment Option in Public Schools:
Parents and their children deserve as much choice in education as possible, regardless of their zip code. I worked to get H.3843, the Open Enrollment Bill, passed by the House on Thursday. The bill will level the playing field for all students in South Carolina and allow students to attend public schools outside of their attendance zone and school district. By providing options in physical location, learning environments, and educational opportunities, parents can find the best school and fit for their child’s education.
Providing Flexibility in Education Programs:
I firmly believe flexibility is a critical component of education programs as it allows students to pursue their educational goals in ways that work best for them. One such method, competency-based education, enhances educational outcomes for students by promoting their mastery of specific concepts and skills. On Thursday the House passed H.3295, a bill that gives school districts the flexibility to use courses that focus on mastery of specific skills, such as welding or mechanics, in place of traditional required seat time in other topics. By embracing flexibility in education, we can create more inclusive, personalized, and effective learning environments that support the success of all students and prepare them for jobs upon graduation.
Improving the SCs First Steps Program:
On Thursday the House passed H.4023, the First Steps Uniformity and Accountability Act, designed to enhance services provided to parents and children by growing partnerships and improving the framework of the program. An integral program for many families in SC, First Step’s mission is to ensure that all children start school ready to reach their highest potential.
Making Progress on Adoption Reform:
I continue to work on legislation aimed at making it easier for parents in SC seeking to adopt children. My colleagues and are working on a set of seven bills that will encourage family members to become guardians, eliminate the 90-day waiting time to finalize an adoption, allow family court judges to waive pre- and post-adoption report requirements, speed up the adoption process, and allow permanency planning hearings to include termination of parental rights determinations.
One of our bills passed the House and was sent to the Senate, and the other six passed unanimously in the House Judiciary Committee. The bills should head to the House floor soon and are set to meet the April 10 legislative deadline.
Enforcing Our Immigration Laws:
The House unanimously voted to pass H.4120, a bill that creates the "Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit" within the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). The purpose of the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit is to enforce immigration laws as authorized pursuant to federal laws and the laws of this State.
SC Won’t Tolerate Sexual Extortion:
Sextortion is a type of cybercrime that involves using sexually explicit images or videos to extort money, sexual favors, or other benefits from a victim. Sextortion laws are crucial in protecting individuals, and while in the US it is considered a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, South Carolina does not have its own specific laws. These laws are important because they help to deter potential offenders, provide recourse for victims, and serve as a reminder that sexual exploitation, even in the form of digital images or videos, is a serious crime and will not be tolerated. On Wednesday H.3583 passed favorably out of subcommittee, and will head to full committee in the coming weeks. This issue hits close to home as one of my House Republican colleagues, Rep. Brandon Guffey from Rock Hill, recently lost a child to this senseless crime, which is why I intend to fully support it when it comes to the House floor. Here’s a link to a fantastic national magazine article highlighting Brandon’s effort.