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  • South Carolina Republicans are one step closer to restricting how race gets taught in K-12 classrooms. As Republicans nationwide push bans on so-called "critical race theory," the state Senate passed a likeminded effort Wednesday in a late night 27-10 vote after nearly six hours of debate. Parents could challenge any educational materials they say violate banned teachings around white privilege and implicit bias under a bill sent back to the GOP-controlled House. Republicans say the bill keeps subjective opinions out of the classroom and allows parents to know what their children are learning. Opponents say it will sanitize the truth and increase stressors on a profession already experiencing record vacancies.
  • The South Carolina House has given key approval to an education voucher bill. Wednesday's vote likely clears the way for up to 15,000 students to be able to use public money for private school tuition. The bill passed on a 79-35 vote and will soon head to Gov. Henry McMaster who has promised to sign it. The bill establishes education scholarship accounts. Parents and guardians can get up to $6,000 a year to pay for tuition, transportation, supplies or technology at either private schools or public schools outside their district.
  • The South Carolina House has unanimously approved a bill allowing teachers or other school district staff up to six weeks of paid leave when they give birth or adopt a child. The bill was passed 113-0 Wednesday and faces one more routine approval before being sent to the Senate. It mirrors a law passed last year that allowed parental leave for state employees. But the General Assembly didn't include educators in that proposal and teachers were angry. The House proposal allows teachers who give birth or are the primary caretakers of an adopted child six weeks of paid leave. The other parent can take up to two weeks and parents who foster a child in state custody also are eligible for two weeks of leave.
  • Debate over a memoir that contains explicit illustrations of sexual acts is surfacing in a handful of states where Republican governors are gearing up for reelection next year. It foreshadows a recurring theme for conservative leaders in the coming campaigns. The book in question, Maia Kobabe's "Gender Queer," has been the focus of ire from Republican governors in various states, including in the Virginia governor's race. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday released a letter calling on Superintendent Molly Spearman to perform a systemic review of "inappropriate" materials in the state's schools. The book in question has become a strategic GOP talking point over the past year.
  • South Carolina's Supreme Court has ruled lawmakers can try to prevent local school districts from requiring masks in classrooms. But the ruling is trumped by a federal court decision two days ago that suspended the ban because federal law trumps state law. The state Supreme Court ruling Thursday does say districts can both require masks and follow the state rule if they can find a way to not spend state money enforcing the wearing of face coverings. The federal ruling says the South Carolina Legislature's ban on mask requirements discriminates against medically fragile students who can't feel safe in public schools without face coverings.
  • The leader of South Carolina's schools says districts now have the authority to require masks in the classroom. State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman wrote the memo Wednesday, a day after a federal judge ruled with the parents of disabled students who said a state ban on mask mandates discriminated against them during the COVID-19 pandemic. The temporary restraining order went into effect immediately. Republicans Gov. Henry McMaster and state Attorney General Alan Wilson promised to appeal the suspension of the provision in the budget passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature. Spearman's memo says districts should consult their lawyers to make sure they give medically fragile students the accommodations they need.
  • Health care workers and educators in South Carolina are doubling down on calls for lawmakers to roll back a provision that bans masks in schools. Pediatricians, school nurses and teachers on Tuesday described the toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking on students and in children's hospitals. They want lawmakers to repeal a state rule that prevents school districts from using state money to enforce a rule requiring masks. More than 88,000 students and staff have been quarantined this school year so far. Schools have recorded nearly 21,000 COVID-19 cases this fall, almost 7,000 more than they counted all of last year.
  • In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter. Classes, schools and entire districts have gone virtual, leaving parents frustrated and teachers quitting weeks into the school year. Republicans backed a provision to ban masks in schools in June when cases were low and have not budged. Now teachers, students and parents are struggling with the fallout as more young people contract the delta variant, forcing nearly two dozen schools and two entire districts back to online learning within a month of returning in person.
  • Starting Monday, every student in South Carolina's second largest school district will have to wear a mask inside schools or have to go to online learning. Charleston County schools passed a mask rule in August, but was working to find a away around a South Carolina budget rule that state money can't be spent to enforce masks in schools. The district will use reserve money so state money from this budget year is not used.
  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says Kershaw County schools are a model in the state for fighting COVID-19 without requiring students to wear masks. The governor toured Camden Elementary School on Wednesday. He saw the thermal scanner that takes the temperature of every student as they walk in without them having to stop. The school also puts a lot of effort into contact tracing, only quarantining people who are within 3 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. McMaster and Republican legislators back a one-year ban on school mask mandates put in the budget. State health officials have asked them to remove it.