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Woodall praises Haley’s education reform initiative

Derik Vanderford dvanderford@civitasmedia.com

5 months 17 days 21 hours ago |552 Views | | | Email | Print

UNION COUNTY — The Union County School District is happy about the support for public education shown by Gov. Nikki Haley in her new public education reform initiative.


On Jan. 8, Gov. Nikki Haley rolled out a new public education reform initiative, which focuses on providing more support for poorer school districts, increasing literacy levels across the state, increasing technology in the classrooms, and providing additional support for teachers.


“I think this reform plan, if we go forward, it will strengthen the students in a way that they get a good education,” Haley said. “It will support the teachers in what they need and what they’ve asked for. It will allow the principals to see things functioning the way they need to, and it will give such a sense of peace to parents that yes, we’re thinking about their kids; we’re not just thinking about tomorrow.”


The first part of the plan involves indexing for poverty, making sure poverty-stricken districts are getting the help and resources they need.


“We have funded children based on where they are born and raised instead of based on the fact they deserve a good education,” Haley said. “We are going through and redistributing. Now, $100 million will go to the poverty districts.”


Haley also said 20 percent more funding will be allocated for each student who signs up for free/reduced lunch or Medicaid, as well as students with low English proficiency. She said a focus will be placed on individualized learning, no matter what class, school or district.


Union County School District Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall responded to the new initiative.


“We are happy about the support Governor Haley has shown for public education in her plan,” Woodall said.


The governor’s initiative also includes a $30 million investment — on top of the $10 million already allocated — toward technology. The funding will be dedicated to improving bandwidth to school facilities, bolstering wireless connectivity within school walls, and launching or enhancing one-to-one technology initiatives. School districts will be allocated funds based upon their average daily membership and their poverty indices; the poorest districts will receive twice as much per-student as the wealthiest. There will also be $12 million allocated for digital instruction, $4 million of which will go toward training teachers in using the new technology.


“We welcome additional funding that can be used toward technology purchases and wireless connections,” Woodall said. “Allocation of funds for staff development is also a key for supporting the use of technology in the classroom so that quality instruction is occurring. In addition to providing materials, there should be a plan for — and evidence that their use is enhancing — student learning. Providing experiences with the use of digital media will be helpful for our students as job market skills evolve.”


The plan also includes a reading portion which makes a $30 million investment toward placing a reading coach at every elementary school in the state. Haley’s budget for the upcoming year also quadruples the state’s investment in summer reading camps, from $1.5 million to $6 million. The implementation of both the reading coaches and summer camps follow an example set by Florida.


“We agree that reading skills are essential, and we should focus on students in early years so that they have a strong foundation for learning throughout the K-12 experience and beyond,” Woodall said. “Currently, we have four part-time reading specialists serving children in our elementary schools. The other half of their day is spent working with teachers to support classroom instruction.”


Woodall said the district’s only hesitation in embracing the proposal for additional reading coaches comes from the issue of whether or not funding will be recurring after the 2014-2015 year.


“An alternative to meeting the targeted areas would be through an increase in our base student funding and flexibility allowed in its use,” Woodall said.


Finally, the governor’s plan will expand public school options. Haley’s budget for FY 2014-15 increases the per-student subsidies for students attending “brick and mortar” charter schools from $3,250 to $3,600 and for those attending virtual charters from $1,700 to $1,900.


The Charter School Revolving Loan Facility Program will receive a $4 million one-time allocation in order to provide charter schools with access to capital for the construction, purchase, renovation, or maintenance of facilities. The budget will also include nearly $750,000 to fund 10 additional virtual school teachers.


Haley said it is important for state legislators to understand the reform plan is a multi-year commitment, and the state cannot skip years in that commitment.-


“I think this reform plan, if we go forward, it will strengthen the students in a way that they get a good education,” Haley said. “It will support the teachers in what they need and what they’ve asked for. It will allow the principals to see things functioning the way they need to, and it will give such a sense of peace to parents that yes, we’re thinking about their kids; we’re not just thinking about tomorrow.”


Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, Ext. 14.

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