EDITOR’S NOTE: The EOC held a full meeting yesterday at 1:00 p.m. at the Blatt Building in Columbia. Recommendations to the budget were made at this meeting.
Columbia – South Carolina Education Oversight Committee (EOC) members adopted budget recommendations yesterday for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The programmatic and funding recommendations made are designed to continue last year’s support of educators and students while accelerating innovation in education.
Based on statutory authority, the committee members annually make recommendations for the spending of Education Improvement Act (EIA) funds, which are generated by the penny sales tax. In November, the Board of Economic Advisors projected that the EIA will generate $791 million in total revenues in fiscal year 2017-18, an increase of $39 million over the current year’s EIA appropriation base.
“These public funds should be targeted to help ensure that students and teachers have what is necessary for students to be college and career ready,” said Bob Couch, chairman of the subcommittee that brought initial recommendations to the full committee Monday. “These recommendations focus on providing students with the opportunities they need to be successful, while supporting those educators in the classroom who set the high expectations for themselves and students in their classrooms. It is also critical we consider innovative practices that may accelerate students’ learning and their college and career readiness.”
Highlights of the recommendations, which now head to the General Assembly and the Governor for consideration during next year’s legislative session, include:
Supporting Educators: Computer Science Task Force and STEM Education
A joint effort with the SC Department of Education, Computer Science Task Force members represented educators, government, parents and industry. The Committee recommended allocating $500 thousand to appoint a Computer Science coordinator to develop a comprehensive plan in collaboration with public and private sector stakeholders. Funds would provide educators professional learning opportunities in computer science. Districts would receive support to provide additional learning opportunities for students. The committee also recommended allocating $1.25 million to support STEM education for teachers, schools and communities to implement additional STEM labs in underserved schools
Supporting Educators: Teacher Recruitment and Retention
The Committee recommends allocating $1.2 million to increase the annual Teaching Fellows award from $6,000 to $7,500 since there has been no increase since the inception of the Teaching Fellow program in 2000. The Committee also supports the development, administration and analysis of an anonymous Teacher Working Conditions Survey to understand the main causes of teacher attrition.
Improve Students College and Career Readiness: Industry Credentials
EOC support $4 million in recurring funds to districts for national industry exams and certifications. One million of the recurring funds would be used to reward schools for student passage rates on exams.
Accelerating Education Innovation: SC Education Innovation Fund
The EOC also recommended the State consider the establishment of a statewide education innovation fund that would develop and implement a competitive grants process for reviewing, awarding and monitoring innovative education strategies. In the past two years, the EOC has administered $3 million in innovation funding for four-year-old kindergarten. With seed funding of $6 million, the Education Innovation fund would build upon current innovation funding and establish additional priorities such as innovative practices in teacher recruitment and retention; applied learning with a focus on K-12 STEM education; and implementing measurable strategies that develop students’ soft skills as noted in the SC Profile of the High School Graduate.
The SC Education Oversight Committee is an independent, non-partisan group made up of 18 educators, business persons, and elected leaders. Created in 1998, the committee is dedicated to reporting facts, measuring change, and promoting progress within South Carolina’s education system.