In the aftermath of the Parkland school deaths, experts came together in South Carolina to discuss solutions to curbing school violence. These are smart, highly experienced, people from multiple disciplines with varying perspectives.
It was strikingly refreshing that the talks were not bogged down by the knee-jerk gun rhetoric flamed by the political Left and Right as well as the hysteria of the ‘Lame-Brain-National-Media-Propaganda-Machine’. Instead, these experts circled around real solutions that will better protect our students.
Problem Has Been Studied; Time for a FIX!
SC’s top law enforcement officer, SLED Chief Mark Keel, said, “We’ve studied this enough. We have many good recommendations. It’s time we start implementing.” Keel pointed out that the General Assembly studied solutions to school violence in 1999 and 2011 and the State Department of Education did another study in 2016.
Additionally, following the 1999 Columbine school shooting the Secret Service studied 37 U.S. school shootings and concluded that schools were placing false hope in physical security, when they should be paying more attention to the pre-attack behaviors of students. Zero-tolerance policies and metal detectors “are unlikely to be helpful,” the Secret Service researchers found.
Former SLED Chief Robert Stewart agreed with Keel, “We don’t need to talk anymore; we need to do.”
Keel and Stewart were two of many who participated in a ‘Summit of Law Enforcement, Educators, and School Crisis Experts to Discuss Best Practices to Keep SC Schools & Children Safe’. The forum was called by Governor Henry McMaster.
McMaster told those gathered he wants every K-12 public school in SC patrolled by an armed law enforcement officer – a Resource Officer in every school. Every panelist agreed.
The Problem is Bigger than Schools
Panelists agreed this is not just a school problem; they called for ‘community solutions’. Some addressed the need for schools to partner with faith-based organizations and other groups. There was discussion of the breakdown in family structure, the lack of respect for others and how those discipline and attitude problems are brought to school. One pastor in the audience passionately called for good people to step forward and mentor students and serve as role models.
Mental Health is a Major Focus
State schools Superintendent Molly Spearman recommended staffing every school with a mental health counselor. It is estimated about half of the public schools in SC have mental health experts on staff. Panelists were strong in their opinion that these professionals are needed to address the growing social and emotional problems students bring to school. High on the list to stem violence is training every teacher on how to recognize red-flag behaviors from students before they turn violent. Spearman said, “So when they see anything suspicious, they will know what to do, how to report it, and who to go to.”
Whatever it Costs
Gov. McMaster included $5 million in his budget proposal in January to put 75 school resource officers in the state’s poorest schools, saying at the time his goal was to eventually put a certified officer in every school. There are more than 1,200 schools statewide. Asked about the additional costs of having a Resource Officer in every school, McMaster responded, “Then we’ll ask for more.”
I agree. It’s time to move swiftly with practical solutions. SC ranks 24th in the nation in school funding per pupil. There is enough money to secure our schools and increase the number of mental health professionals, so let’s re-prioritize and drop the political hysterics of “We don’t have enough money!” Public safety is the #1 priority of government and keeping kids safe is paramount.
There is No One Solution
Earlier in the week the House Education Committee heard from a spokesman for SC’s School Resource Officers. Kevin Wren called for full funding to have a School Resource Officer in every school saying, “SRO’s are a proven and effective way to help increase school safety and climate, forge connections and relationships with students, and help deter a pathway to violence and crime.” Among his many recommendations he also called for mandating school safety and crisis management for all teachers and administrators. His testimony was both thoughtful and deep as he drilled down on practical solutions. I invite you to view the hearing at this link: House Education Committee.
Bottom line: It is clear that one solution is not the end all; all potential solutions should be considered. For certain, we all need to work together to find those practical and meaningful solutions to protect students at school.
Real ID is Rolled Out in SC
For those planning to board a commercial airplane after 2020 or enter a federal building or military installation, you’ll need a REAL ID. REAL ID is now available. Wednesday, Governor McMaster and SCDMV Executive Director Kevin Shwedo kicked off the Real ID program at the Statehouse. (I’m proud to have received the REAL ID from the temporary DMV office set up in the Statehouse lobby.) The gold star on your new driver’s licenses or state identification card will make you compliant with the federal REAL ID Act. The Real ID can be purchased at all SCDMV branches statewide for $25. More than 1.2 million South Carolinians have already submitted the needed information to DMV and they can obtain their REAL ID online. To be eligible to purchase a REAL ID, the SCDMV must have on file all of the following:
- Proof of Identity (Government-issued birth certificate or valid US Passport)
- Proof of Social Security Number
- Two Proofs of Current, Physical SC Address
- Proof of All Legal Name Changes
Remember, you do not have to rush to the SCDMV to change your card. Unless your driver’s license or I.D. is expiring there’s almost no reason to wait in line to change your card right now. You have until September 30, 2020. To read FAQ’s for REAL ID and view real-time wait times for all of the state’s locations, visit www.scdmvonline.com.
REMEMBER THIS IS COMPLETELY VOLUNTARY.
House Votes to Require Vision Screening for All Driver’s Licenses
Drivers renewing their South Carolina licenses may need to pass a vision test once again, under legislation passed by the House this week. New drivers still have to pass the screenings, but the House voted to once again reinstate the rule for drivers renewing their license.
Proposal Chops SC Income Tax to Super Low Rate!
The special House Tax Committee voted unanimously to file legislation to replace the SC’s multiple income tax rates with a single, flat 4.85% tax rate. Currently, SC’s income tax rates ranges from 3% to 7%. The committee’s goal is to accomplish major reform while conforming SC’s income tax collections to the new federal tax code. Our neighboring states are moving forward on similar paths. The Georgia House passed its sweeping tax cuts that reduces their state income tax rate from 6 to 5.5 percent by 2020. This proposed plan would make SC far more tax competitive than its neighbors.
Flexible Teaching to Meet Students’ Needs
The House took a major step toward giving SC’s public schools the flexibility needed to truly meet students where they are and ensure mastery of key concepts and skills. It’s called ‘Competency Based Education’. The bill (H.4596) creates a pilot program for competency-based education in which students benefit from greater flexibility in time, pace and delivery, advancing to higher levels of learning by demonstrating mastery of core knowledge and skills instead of merely moving from one subject to the next whether they are ready or not. This approach provides the foundation for personalized learning where each student’s educational experience can then be tailored to meet their unique strengths, interests and needs. After receiving unanimous approval from the House, the bill was sent to the Senate for consideration.
Nixing Costly Environmental Stall Tactics
The House voted overwhelmingly (86-30) to shorten the amount of time radical environmental groups can hold up construction of important state infrastructure projects and business development projects in court. Under current law, environmental groups have a history demanding taxpayers and private businesses give so-called “land trusts” millions of dollars before dropping the court cases that hold up construction. An environmental group recently forced taxpayers of the state of South Carolina to pay several million dollars to their aligned groups in order to end the delays to bring Boeing to SC and deepen the Port of Charleston. Without these forced payments, an environmental group could have thwarted the recruitment of Boeing and the deepening on the Port of Charleston. The new law passed by the House and Senate will limit a “stay” to 90 days. Governor McMaster has announced he will sign this important reform bill.
Poultry Legislation Passes
The House gave final approval to legislation (H.3929) that will provide more certainty and fairness in the DHEC permitting process for the development of new poultry farms. The bill helps our growers in determining where to place new houses and gives DHEC an objective standard for which to determine the permit application. It also ensures that individuals who are truly affected by a proposed permit have a say in the DHEC process. The bill was sent to the governor for his approval. (Factoid: Over 800 family farms have an $11 billion economic impact through the poultry industry in SC.)
Thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. Your feedback and assistance is critical in ensuring your voice is heard in our state government. If you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, or if you need assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 864-529-2860 or email me at email@example.com. Remember, you can go to www.schouse.gov, click on my name and see how I have voted on each and every issue before the house. You can also see any bills that I have sponsored or co-sponsored.