By Ryan Brown for The Island Eye News
With the start of the 2021 legislative session, State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman has released the South Carolina Department of Education’s legislative priorities for 2021. The safe and expedient return of students to the classroom remains at the forefront of the SCDE’s agenda.
“While our primary focus must remain on the safe return of students for face-to-face instruction this school year, our state has an opportunity in 2021 to take action on items that will have a profound impact on students, educators and our system of public instruction for years to come,” said Spearman. “The priorities that we have developed come as a result of speaking with educators about their needs and observing the obstacles our schools have faced during the past year. I look forward to working with the members of the General Assembly to address these challenges head on and ensuring we move South Carolina’s education system in the right direction.”
Spearman’s priorities include:
Ensure the safety and wellness of South Carolina students and educators –
After what has been an extraordinary year, protecting the safety and wellness of educators and students is more important than ever. It is vital that all schools have the resources to provide appropriate mental, physical and emotional health support needed for immediate and continued success.
Recruit and retain teachers –
One positive thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is that South Carolinians have a newfound appreciation for the remarkable job that teachers have done when it comes to educating students. However, the pandemic also has intensified the teacher crisis in South Carolina. Now is the time for state and local leaders to come together for current and future educators by supporting financial incentives, policies and programs that will help secure a strong, high-quality teacher workforce that serves the state’s students for years to come.
Guarantee that every South Carolina student has access to robust college and career readiness opportunities –
Career readiness is crucial to the future successes and quality of life for every South Carolina student – as well as for the economic health of the state. To prepare a workforce of tomorrow, a variety of career and technology education courses need to be readily available.
This includes equal access to up-to-date technology and instructional materials, as well as a competency-based education that does not rely heavily on high-stakes testing.
Expand early learning and literacy –
Research and experience have proven that Child Early Reading and Development Education Programs, along with strong parental engagement, provide essential foundations needed for kindergarten readiness and continued academic success.
To further close the achievement gap and improve literacy in K-12, expansion of full-day 4K across the state and actively engaging parents with their children’s instructional goals are imperative.
Maximize district efficiency and additional recommendations –
Additional priorities designed to maximize district efficiency, reform education funding formulas and support staff at all levels.
To view and download the complete legislative priorities summary, visit ed.sc. gov/newsroom/2021-legislative-priorities.