South Carolina lawmakers look to fund Pre-K programs in every school district

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COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – State lawmakers are trying to improve education for young children across South Carolina.

Gov. Henry McMaster says education will be a cornerstone of his spending plan. Last month, he said his budget would give all teachers in the state a $3,000 raise.

That’s not all he’s pushing for.

“Gov. McMaster and I had a talk about 18 months ago, where we were quite frank with each other,” said Rep. Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville and Speaker of the House. “There were some holes, as he stated, in our public education system.”

The governor says he wants to make sure full-day pre-Kindergarten programs are funded in every school district in the state, which would cost about $53 million.

“Some communities just don’t have the programs in place, or the human infrastructure, to do a full-blown pre-K program,” said Sen. Greg Hembree, R-North Myrtle Beach.

Sen. Hembree, who’s also the Senate’s education committee chair, says it’s important to make sure children of all financial backgrounds get a good start to their education.

“We have a significant number of children that are coming into kindergarten that aren’t ready,” he said. “They just don’t have even the most basic skills that will make them even able to do kindergarten work.”

The money would allow 17 districts currently without a “full-day 4K program” to expand. The full-day pre-K program was created in 2006 and has slowly expanded. By 2014, the program covered 64 districts, all of which have at least 70% of their total student population in poverty.

Sen. Hembree says the funding the governor is proposing likely won’t change much for fully funded school districts.

“We have a strong school district in Horry County, particularly for the level of poverty we have in our community,” he said.

Gov. McMaster’s budget proposal for next year is expected to be released next week and the state legislature would need to keep the pre-K funding in the budget when it’s passed later this year.

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