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EOC Issues Budget Recommendations

Tue, 12/13/2022

EOC policy and budget recommendations prioritize providing resources to students and educators to deal with unfinished learning due to pandemic

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. List of full recommendations can be found here

As required by state law, the Education Oversight Committee (EOC) today approved budget recommendations for Fiscal Year 2023-24. These recommendations focus on the revenues generated by the one-cent sales tax, the Education Improvement Act. The committee’s recommendations prioritize the need to focus on unfinished learning brought about by the pandemic.

In addition to recommending funds be allocated to efforts related to college- and career-readiness and teacher recruitment and retention, the committee was also mindful of the need to hold funds in reserve should the state face an economic downturn in future years. These recommendations will be forwarded to the Governor and General Assembly for their consideration in the upcoming budget deliberations.

Members met throughout the fall, reviewing and hearing comment from programs on budget needs and priorities. In Fiscal Year 2023-24, the penny sales tax is expected to generate an estimated $1.153 billion dollars dedicated solely to public education. The represents an increase of $148.7 million dollars, which are available to improve the quality of public education. For Fiscal Year 2022-23, the current fiscal year, there is also a surplus of $252.3 million of non-recurring dollars.

“Student academic performance – particularly the declines we have seen in math performance – remained the primary focus of the subcommittee as it established priorities,” stated Dr. Bob Couch, chair of the subcommittee that brought forth the recommendations to the EOC and principal of Anderson Institute of Technology, an upstate Career Center. “We are fortunate to now have state resources to devote to helping students recover the lost learning that the pandemic brought about. That should be our first priority.”

In its recommendations, the EOC suggested that the non-recurring dollars from the current year’s budget be allocated to high-dose tutoring in English and math, an evidence-based practice that has proven results with students who are struggling academically.

“This recommendation of $17.6 million would provide tutoring for 47,000 students during a school year,” stated Couch. “The tutoring model, successful in Tennessee, utilizes individuals trained in the curriculum and instructional strategies to help students.”

The Committee’s budget recommendations for EIA revenues are summarized as follows:

Unfinished Learning from Pandemic

  • Concurring with the SC Department of Education’s request, using the $30.0 million in current year surplus to update instructional materials for students, with priority placed on subject areas with new standards.
  • Allocation of resources totaling $4.8 million to identify gaps in student learning in specific math content/skills and corresponding teacher strategies to support teaching and learning.
  • Increase in funding of $20 million to support ten additional contract days for teachers in 227 Literacy Project Schools. The additional days would be used for professional learning in either reading or math instruction.
  • Funding of $15 million for LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling), a proven professional learning program designed to give teachers the content and principles of literacy and effective language.
  • Additional funding of $300,000 for the SC Department of Education to pilot the feasibility of requiring a passing score on a rigorous test of scientifically research-based reading instruction and intervention and data-based decision-making principles, as determined by the State Board of Education, for initial early childhood and elementary education licensure.

College-and career-readiness

  • Pilot and implement an Artificial Intelligence (AI) high school curriculum, to include a pathway for students interested in automotive AI, using a recommended increase of $3 million.
  • Increase funding for Career and Technology Centers (CTEs) by $5 million to purchase necessary equipment for pathway programs that are tied to industry certifications. 
  • A recommendation to include an additional $100,000 in the SC Department of Education’s Adult Education office to focus on career services in Allendale, Hampton, and Jasper counties.
  • An allocation of $1.5 million for a partnership between the SC Department of Education and the College Board to improve college- and career-readiness of secondary and middle school students, expanding the access to Pre-Advanced Placement courses across the state.

Teacher Recruitment and Retention

  • The EOC recommends additional money be allocated from within EIA to support increasing the teacher supply stipend of $300.
  • An increase of $1 million to the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) to expand the Teaching Fellows program.

Couch stated that the committee also approved a recommendation of $7.1 million to provide financial awards for schools who receive Palmetto Gold and Silver Awards. The awards program, created and outlined in the Education Accountability Act (EAA), is designed to “recognize and reward schools for academic achievement and for closing the achievement gap.”