Gov. Nikki Haley’s plan to improve rural schools is getting high marks from a couple of state lawmakers who have focused for years on education. The governor talked about her plan during her State of the State address Wednesday night.
Part of the governor’s plan is to use incentives to attract good teachers to rural areas and give them an incentive to stay. In her speech, she said, “If a student agrees to teach in a challenged district for 8 years, we will cover the full cost of their education at a state university. For recent graduates who agree to the same commitment, we will repay their student loans. For career educators who want to grow professionally and teach in these challenged districts, we will cover the cost of their graduate coursework.”
Rep. Rita Allison, R-Lyman, chairs an education task force that was created to come up with a plan to respond to a state Supreme Court ruling requiring the state to improve education in rural districts. She says, “A lot of our new teachers end up in those areas. The important thing is that we’re not keeping them there long enough and the turnover is great. With these incentives, hopefully they will stay there longer and dig in and make a difference. Also I hope that it will help us to grow our own out of those areas and that a lot of those young people will consider going into the teaching profession and coming back home to their community.”
Rep. Doug Brannon, R-Landrum, “If we can get those new and qualified teachers to go to those lower-performing districts and stay for a period of time … if they’re there for 8 years they’re going to dig in, they’re going to build roots, they’re going to–it’s going to become their homes, so you’re not only changing the schools you’re changing the communities.”
The governor also wants the state to start repairing old and crumbling school buildings in districts that can’t afford to do that on their own. She’s proposing that the state borrow up to one percent of its bonding capacity each year to raise money for K-12 buildings.