- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto has killed legislation exempting teacher evaluations from public disclosure, but the Republican governor said she will support a better-written bill next year.

Haley said she recognizes the bill’s intent is to promote a more candid evaluation process, but she said it is too broad.

The one-sentence measure exempts educator evaluations with “personally identifiable information” from the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Haley said that allows school districts to withhold any record related to an evaluation, including information on teacher misconduct that should be publicly available, she wrote in her veto message signed Friday.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kenny Bingham, said he supports the veto, as he didn’t intend to create a potential loophole.

“We’re working on language now to fix it,” he said.

The House voted unanimously Tuesday to sustain Haley’s veto, after Bingham took the podium to make the rare request that they do so. It marked Haley’s first successful veto this year.

Bingham, R-Cayce, said he introduced the bill as a precaution after the state Department of Education introduced a new evaluation process.

“It’s designed to be more critical and more specific - to drill down more on teachers in an effort to help them,” he said. “At the same time there was concern that people can take that out of context. If it’s FOIA-able, principals are less likely to note any deficiencies for the public record, which defeats the purpose of an evaluation.”

The House passed the bill unanimously last year. The Senate passed it 35-1 two weeks ago.

Haley said she’s working with Bingham and state Superintendent Molly Spearman on legislation that will protect teachers’ privacy while allowing “reasonable public access.” Legislators can’t consider it until next year. This year’s regular legislative session ends Thursday.

Bingham said a clause in the 2016-17 state budget covers teachers for the upcoming school year.


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