During the 2015 session, Governor Nikki Haley and South Carolina’s legislature remained committed to the state’s existing strong education reform policies in reading and school choice. The state’s leaders took action to improve these policies during this year’s regular and special sessions, which wrapped up earlier this month.
In its first special session of 2015, the General Assembly passed a 2015-2016 budget that includes significant new investments in two key education programs. Governor Haley signed the budget on July 1, investing more than $46 million in the state’s Read to Succeed program, a more than $11 million increase over last year, and expanding the state’s Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children (ECENC) program.
K-3 READING IN THE BUDGET
Governor Haley signed South Carolina’s Read to Succeed Act into law on June 11, 2014. The law includes a comprehensive K-3 reading policy that will be fully implemented in the 2017-18 school year, with the goal of all students reading on grade level by the end of third grade. Benefits include early identification of struggling readers, intervention to assist those readers, parent notification and involvement, teacher training and reading coach support and – as a last resort – third grade retention with more intensive interventions.
The 2015-2016 state budget makes a strong commitment to reading by investing an additional $10 million for reading coaches for a total of $39 million in annual funding. Lawmakers also included an additional $1.5 million for summer reading camps for a total of $7.5 million in annual funding. These funds will provide more teacher support to improve classroom reading instruction and extended learning during the summer.
SCHOOL CHOICE IN THE BUDGET
The ECENC, the state’s tax credit scholarship for students with special needs, enables Scholarship Funding Organizations (SFOs) to award grants of up to $10,000 to eligible children with special needs. Contributors to SFOs receive a dollar-for-dollar income tax credit of up to 60 percent of their tax liability, with an annual cap of $8 million in credits. The state budget adds $4 million in new, refundable tax credits of up to $10,000 per student that families may claim directly for tuition expenses for their child with special needs. The budget also includes provisions that increase accountability and oversight of SFOs participating in the program.
Take a look at what other states accomplished in their 2015 legislative sessions. We have also shared session wrap-ups on Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee.