COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - After weeks of debate and hundreds of amendments, Senators voted 41-4 to approve an education bill (S.419) Wednesday afternoon.
The legislation still needs one more vote Thursday before it is sent to the House. Three Democrats and one Republican voted against the bill Wednesday.
Senator Greg Hembree (R-Horry) who is also the chairman for the Senate Education Committee, said, "Sometimes we pass things we don't spend as much time or effort or energy on as we should. I'm just as proud of my colleagues in my Senate as I've ever been."
Senators had been debating the bill for eight weeks.
Over the last two months, Senators debated hundreds of amendments, they added some things to the bill like duty free time for some teachers and expanding lottery scholarship enhancements to education majors to the bill.
The large bill touches nearly every aspect of education in South Carolina. Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) voted in favor of the bill. He said he is proud of the statewide 4K expansion plan included in the legislation. "It's never been done before. We are behind many other states. We know four-year-old kindergarten works," he said.
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South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East said the bill isn't perfect but she believes it is a first step in reforming education.
She said, “It has been amended to a spot we are okay with.” According to East, there are things in the bill members of the association like and she believes signing the bill into law will make a difference.
She said, "Is this the big sweeping reform we need? No. Is it detrimental, horrible and worth quitting your job over? I don't think so."
We spoke with SC for Ed a few hours after the vote. The grassroots teacher group called Wednesday a shameful day in South Carolina. Founder Lisa Ellis said, "It [the bill] is very far from perfect."
Ellis said there are concerns that aren't addressed in the bill like a teacher bill of rights, smaller class sizes and local control for the school start date.
The group has been vocal in their opposition to the bill, they said throughout this process they have been villainized for speaking out. Ellis said, "If you don't understand the teachers in the classroom are there for the best interest of the student then you don't understand education."
S.419 is expected to be given third reading Thursday and then be sent to the House.