GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — A bill introduced in the South Carolina Senate this year would prevent public school districts from making elementary school teachers work during their lunch breaks.
“It is unacceptable,” said Sen. Stephen Goldfinch (R-Georgetown County), who sponsored the bill. “We have to find a way to give these guys a break.”
The bill, S.16, was introduced this January. It made it out of the Senate last month, and remains in the House Committee on Education and Public Works.
Under the bill, elementary school teachers would be guaranteed a 30-minute “duty-free” lunch break each day. Districts would not be allowed to force teachers to work through their break, unless there are “extreme and unavoidable circumstances to ensure the safety and welfare of students and staff.” Districts would also be banned from offering to pay a teacher more to work through their break.
Districts would face penalties if a principal or school district doesn’t follow the policy. The bill does not list what those penalties would be.
If passed, the bill would be implemented before July 1, 2023. Districts would be open to adding further protections for teachers.
The legislation has the support of SC for Ed, a teacher advocacy group.
“We are excited to see positive movement on this bill and hope it will pass,” the organization told News13. “Sadly, districts have the ability to make this happen without it being state law, but they have chosen not to. If it takes a state law to give unencumbered time for elementary school teachers to take care of their needs, then we need that law. Frankly, it should be more time due to the unrealistic expectations placed on teachers.”
Goldfinch wrote the bill after hearing about the expectations placed on his daughter’s teacher. Currently, he said that teachers are being forced to do training during their breaks.
The reform was previously tied to an omnibus education bill, which he said turned partisan.
“It was a piece that everybody should have been able to get behind, but could not because of all the ugly parts of that bill,” Goldfinch said.
Taking that piece out of the omnibus bill is an attempt to help it gain approval. Passing it, he said, will show teachers that they’ve valued by the state.
“There is no reason why Democrats or Republicans should oppose this,” he said.