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Greenville Business Magazine

The Business Narrative: Education Funding

Feb 01, 2024 09:42AM ● By Donna Walker

SC Department of Education Outlines Budget Priorities for 2024-’25 School Year

State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver presented the South Carolina Department of Education’s comprehensive budget priorities during a House Ways and Means subcommittee meeting earlier this week. The budget hearing is the most recent step in the annual budget process that ultimately will provide funding for the 2024-25 school year.


Weaver outlined the challenges South Carolina’s students, families, and educators face, and discussed the state Department of Education’s top priorities for next year.


“The future we want for our students is in view, and the path is evident,” Weaver said. “We must have clarity of mission and vision and we must align our resources for highest impact. This budget aims to improve student success, boost teacher support, build workforce readiness, and enhance school safety.”


The current year has featured an intense focus on literacy. The state is adopting new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum paired with intensive professional development for literacy teachers in the early grades, in support of recently revised ELA standards.


Next year’s budget builds on that progress with a similar focus on math, with a significant request for $186 million to pay for that acquisition cycle. The selection of new high quality math curriculum will be guided by streamlined standards and will support math instruction for years to come.


The SCDE has requested $10 million to implement the Palmetto Math Project. This initiative would be built on the demonstrated student success of the Palmetto Literacy Project, with a focus on state-led instructional coaching, high quality instructional materials, high quality professional learning, and high-dose tutoring.


In addition, SCDE is seeking about $3 million to establish a Character and Resiliency Education (CARE) and civics education initiative. This effort would seek to inspire students through structured character development curricula and supplementary materials that emphasize the unifying character traits outlined in the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate.


To support the state’s new Education Scholarship Account (ESA) program, known as the South Carolina Education Scholarship Trust Fund, Weaver has requested $30 million to cover the full funding for the first year of the program. 


During Tuesday’s hearing, Weaver discussed the ongoing effort to professionalize the teacher compensation system. She backs the governor and General Assembly’s multi-year push to increase the minimum starting teacher salary to $50,000.


To support these proposals, SCDE has requested an increase of $1,500 to each step on the salary schedule and an extension of teacher contracts by five days, which would continue the steady march to $50,000.


One of the agency’s top requests includes establishing a statewide uniform mapping system to assist first responders when responding to an emergency call at a local school. This technology would provide emergency personnel with site-specific labeling that matches the structure of the school building and grounds, overlaid on current aerial imagery of the property.

WREN Names New Chief Executive Officer

The Women’s Rights & Empowerment Network (WREN) announced this week that the board of directors has named Dr. Amalia Luxardo its new chief executive officer.


With more than 20 years of service in the public sector, Luxardo brings a wealth of leadership experience and a passion for positive change. She succeeds Ann Warner, who stepped down in September 2023.


As a bilingual, bicultural daughter of immigrants, Luxardo’s distinguished professional and academic career has been dedicated to elevating and empowering communities that have been historically underrepresented and underserved. 


“I was truly impressed by how Amalia’s experience, passion, and vision perfectly aligned with the needs of our organization,” said Beth Ruffin, chair of WREN’s board of directors.


“Amalia’s track record of fundraising success and strategic thinking is exactly what we need to solidify WREN’s position as a leader in the Southeast and across the nation. Her leadership style is a perfect fit for our mission. I am confident that under her guidance, we will continue to make a lasting impact within the communities we serve.”


Before joining WREN, Luxardo served as the CEO of the Women’s Foundation for the State of Arizona, where she transitioned a regional organization to expand statewide, redistributed over $10 million to individuals and local organizations, launched the state’s first Women and Girls of Color Fund, and passed legislation that provided an avenue for self-sufficiency to over 160,000 single mothers in Arizona.


Luxardo received her Ph.D. in conflict analysis and resolution from Nova Southeastern University. She previously served as a researcher and policy adviser for the Department of State during the Obama administration. During that time, her research was published as a resource for the national administration’s blueprint for immigration reform.

She will assume the CEO role on February 20, 2024.


QuicksortRx Announces $100 Million in Medication Savings Since 2018

QuicksortRx, a technology company helping health systems improve pharmacy purchasing and reduce medication costs, has announced that its clients have achieved over $100 million in medication cost savings through the platform since the company launched in late 2018.


Founded by pharmacists and technologists from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), QuicksortRx empowers health systems to instantly assess medication price, availability, and purchasing trends across multiple facilities. 


By streamlining pharmaceutical market analysis, QuicksortRx clients use the business intelligence platform to drive faster, more informed decisions and to improve efficiency in medication procurement.


The $100 million figure represents realized savings tracked by health systems using QuicksortRx to identify and operationalize changes in their medication procurement. Savings are most often achieved by health system pharmacy staff acting on insights from the platform to optimize product selection, identify and correct contract issues, and target strategic 340B interventions.


The platform monitors initiatives identified and executed by the health system in real time, capturing savings as they are achieved.


“Having spent my entire career before QuicksortRx at MUSC, I know the financial constraints hospitals work under,” said Jonathan Yantis, CEO and co-founder of QuicksortRx. “There are limited resources to go around to important projects that affect lives. The impetus for QuicksortRx was to help free up capital that could be more efficiently invested in patient care.”


QuicksortRx began as a project when Yantis, an MUSC network engineer, teamed up with Matt Hebbard and MUSC’s pharmacy department to develop software that would help the health system better manage their medication spend. In the early stages of the platform's development, the inventors envisioned a solution that could be used outside MUSC.


Today, the platform helps more than 30 health systems manage over $8 billion in annual hospital pharmacy spend. To support its growth, QuicksortRx recently moved to a larger corporate headquarters in Charleston. The company plans to add more than 40 new team members over the next three years to help further scale services.

Turning Pages SC Names Lisa Cole to Executive Director Position

Turning Pages SC, a local nonprofit dedicated to adult literacy, has named Lisa Cole as its executive director. Serving as interim executive director since August 2022, Cole has played a pivotal role in revitalizing the organization and expanding its reach in the Midlands.


Cole joined Turning Pages as a board member in spring 2021 when she sought new ways to contribute to her community. The nonprofit's mission of improving literacy resonated with her, aligning with her passion for education and community development.


While her academic background lies in business management and marketing, Cole’s hands-on experience spans education, nonprofits, indie publishing, and grassroots development.

As interim executive director, Cole led the organization through a comprehensive overhaul, rebuilding its internal systems, website, curriculum, and training programs, while establishing crucial policies. This transformative period allowed for a fresh start, unburdened by past constraints, turning a 55-year-old dying nonprofit into a dynamic, forward-looking entity.


Under Cole’s leadership, the organization achieved significant milestones, including the development of a new strategic plan, an expansion of the board from five to 15 members, acquisition of numerous grants, establishment of workshops, and forging of new partnerships with local agencies.


A notable accomplishment is the recruitment and training of over 50 volunteer tutors across Richland and Lexington Counties.


Through technology and AI integration, Turning Pages SC has also become a more mobile, cloud-based organization for its volunteers. Automated processes have increased efficiency, allowing staff to focus on providing personalized support to tutors and learners.


Cole envisions Turning Pages SC becoming a statewide model for adult literacy. The organization's streamlined, metric-driven approach emphasizes efficiency, replicability, and sustainability. She aims to develop a support network for literacy councils across South Carolina and has already received interest from numerous groups wanting to replicate Turning Pages' successful model.

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