Gov. Haley reveals education reform plan

By Ashley Barker
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published Jan. 9, 2014

Gov. Nikki Haley unveiled details of her K-12 Education Reform Initiative Wednesday, which includes funding for children living in poverty, reading coach programs and technology improvements.

Haley met with 16 different groups of teachers, administrators, business leaders, education stakeholders and members of the state’s General Assembly over the past year to develop the plan, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

“Providing every child in South Carolina with the same educational opportunities isn’t just something we should talk about — it’s something we should be actively fighting to achieve, and that is what we are doing today,” Haley said in a statement.

Funding poor districts

Haley’s initiative proposes spending $97 million for children living in the poorest communities in the state. School districts would receive 20% more funding for students included in the poverty index, which includes children eligible for free or reduced-price meals and Medicaid, or both.

Schools with children requiring individualized education plans — the gifted and talented, those who don’t show basic proficiency and students ages 17 to 21 who are pursuing a diploma or GED certificate through an adult program — would receive additional money, the initiative said.

Reading coaches

An additional $29.5 million would be used to fund a reading coach program in each public elementary school.

“Ensuring that students are proficient readers before advancing them beyond third grade will improve their performance through middle and high school and reduce dropout rates,” the release said.

The 300 S.C. elementary schools where 20% or more of students failed to meet the basic state standards in reading will receive a coach, fully funded by the state, according to the initiative. The remaining 340 schools will be offered half of the funding from the state, if the school district agrees to match it.

Haley’s budget for the upcoming year increases the state’s investment in summer reading camps from $1.5 million to $6 million, the initiative said. The budget also provides up to $5 million for reading-related professional development for teachers in 2014-15.

Lowcountry elementary schools that will receive a fully state-funded reading coach:

Berkeley County

  • Bonner Elementary School
  • Cainhoy Elementary-Middle School
  • Cross Elementary School
  • J.K. Gourdin Elementary School
  • Sedgefield Intermediate School
  • St. Stephen Elementary

Charleston County

  • C. Corcoran Elementary School
  • Angel Oak Elementary School
  • Apple Charter School
  • C. Blaney Elementary School
  • Chicora School of Communications: An Elementary Magnet
  • E. B. Ellington Elementary School
  • Edith L. Frierson Elementary School
  • Edmund A. Burns Elementary
  • Hunley Park Elementary School
  • James Simons Elementary School
  • Julian Mitchell Math and Science Elementary School
  • Ladson Elementary School
  • Lambs Elementary School
  • Malcolm C. Hursey Elementary School
  • Mary Ford Elementary School
  • Memminger School of Global Studies
  • Minnie Hughes Elementary School
  • Mt. Zion Elementary School
  • North Charleston Elementary School
  • Pepperhill Elementary School
  • Pinehurst Elementary School
  • Sanders-Clyde Elementary School
  • St. James-Santee Elementary School
  • W. B. Goodwin Elementary School

Dorchester School District 4

  • Clay Hill Elementary School

Source: K-12 Education Reform Initiative

Technology

To improve bandwidth at school facilities, increase wireless connectivity within school walls and ensure each student has a computer or tablet, Haley’s initiative calls for $29.3 million. That is a quarter of the Capital Reserve Fund budget, according to the initiative.

School districts will be given money based on the average number of students who attend each day, and “the poorest districts will receive twice as much per student as the wealthiest,” the initiative said.

The current budget includes a one-time $4 million fund for digital instructional materials, which will increase to $12 million in 2014-15 under the new plan.

“Modernizing technology and improving bandwidth will give students greater access to educational content and also critical computer skills their future employers will demand,” the initiative said.

Teacher technology training will require an additional $4 million, according to Haley.

Allocations in Charleston-area counties:

Berkeley County

Charleston County

Dorchester School District 2

Dorchester 4

$1,047,430

$1,500,405

$811,081

$147,438

Source: K-12 Education Reform Initiative

Charter schools

Haley’s plan also projects enrollment in charter schools throughout the state will grow by nearly 27% from the current school year to the next. Haley’s budget will increase the per student subsidy for students attending “brick and mortar” charter schools from $3,250 to $3,600 and those attending virtual charters from $1,700 to $1,000, the initiative said. Nearly $750,000 is expected to fund 10 new teachers in the virtual schools program as well.

“By reforming South Carolina’s antiquated funding formula, providing funding for reading coaches and new technology, we are taking a stand against the idea that where you are born and raised should influence the quality of your education,” Haley said. “We have an obligation, as good citizens, and as a government, to provide every child with the chance to reach their potential in the classroom — that is our obligation and that is my promise.”

Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, supports Haley’s proposal.

“The K-12 Education Reform Initiative’s emphasis on literacy and technology has potential for long-term positive results for schools and children,” Levesque said in a statement issued through Haley’s office. “We applaud the governor’s action to build a foundation of infrastructure and resources for growth in these crucial areas for education.”

The S.C. Democratic Party called Haley’s plan a “Hail Mary” that was launched in the midst of her re-election campaign.

“The only thing worse than Nikki Haley’s failure to notice the crisis in S.C. public education is the devastating harm that her neglectful and contemptuous policies have done to South Carolina’s students, schools and economy,” Kristin Sosanie, the party’s communications director, said in a statement.

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.

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