A bill that would permit South Carolina school districts to operate multiple “schools of innovation” was approved Wednesday by the House Education and Public Works Committee.
Under current law, South Carolina school districts may designate one school per district as a “school of choice” and seek permission for that school to be exempt from certain rules and regulations, enabling the teachers and administrators to pursue innovative techniques.
The bill, House Bill 3589, would change the designation to “schools of innovation” and would allow districts to apply for multiple schools to operate within a district. The bill also would require a district’s application to be approved by a two-thirds vote of its local school board, as well as the state Board of Education.
“The purpose behind a school of innovation is to try something different, to see if that works,” said Rep. Raye Felder, R-York, who is a co-sponsor of the bill. “The ones we have, typically, those are lower performing schools. The education community comes together and says, ‘Well, maybe if we did this.’ ”
Three schools in South Carolina are operating as schools of choice: Meeting Street Academy, which operates two campuses in Charleston, and two additional schools in Spartanburg and Pickens County.
Meeting Street Academy boasts students in the 84th percentile in reading and 83rd percentile in math performance.
“This school of innovation is changing our younger generations,” said Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville. “They are finding innovative ways to have those teacher-parent conversations, because it’s only when we get that parent engagement that we can achieve the results.”
The bill is supported by Americans for Prosperity of South Carolina.
“For too long, we’ve forced children and families into a one-size fits all system that dictates a student’s educational experience based off where they live,” AFP State Director Andrew Yates said in a statement. “This bill addresses the need to re-evaluate our student’s educational experiences and takes a huge step toward increasing educational opportunity for every South Carolina student.”
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