Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce wants legislature to prioritize education, workplace development

We Stand For Progress Reports Jan. 30, 2019, 2:14pm

Business leaders in Charleston are pushing education and workplace development among their priorities for this session of the South Carolina legislature.

The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce late last week launched its agenda, which includes advocating for changes in education from early childhood to higher education, which the chamber believes should be designed to provide a skilled workforce to support the region's employers.

Specifically, the chamber wants full funding for the Education Finance Act (EFA), which is estimated to cost an additional $487 million.

Under a 2017 amendment to the act, which was first passed in the 1970s, the state's public teachers and administrators must be paid at least at the average salary of those in similar positions in the Southeast.

The chamber also supports state funding for Career Technical Education (CTE) dual-credit programs. This, it argues, will help develop apprenticeships statewide.

"Our 2019 State Legislative Agenda focuses on the business community's top priorities relating to taxes and regulations, workforce housing, state fiscal health, building a skilled talent pipeline, education and supporting the military," Ian Scott, senior vice president of government relations for the chamber, told the Palmetto Business Daily.

Scott added, "Our goal is to arm our business lobbyist, George Ramsey, with a set of priorities that are achievable in this legislative session."

State House of Representative and Senate leaders spoke with reporters last week and revealed details of their focus this 123rd legislative session. It began Jan. 8.

Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey (R-Edgefield) echoed the chamber when he said Republicans in the legislature will focus on higher education, K-12 education and workforce development, as well as pension reform and infrastructure.

"I don't think the problem with K-12 is that legislatures don't care about it," said Massey, according to a report on WLTX news.

"The problem is that they do care about it, and everybody has their own ideas. The difficulty will be getting the consensus necessary in order to pass something big that will be meaningful."

The chamber's minority leader, Nikki Setzler, while agreeing there should be a focus on education, noted that this must include increases to salaries for teachers and changes to testing.

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