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Education and Business Leaders Push for Accountable Education Through Passage of Amendment 1

October 26, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Today, in a rare showing of bipartisan support, Republican State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman and former Democratic Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum joined a chorus of business leaders and local officials to raise awareness and rally support for Amendment 1, a ballot question that voters will decide on at the polls on November 6.  If passed, Amendment 1 would allow governors to appoint the State Superintendent of Education with the confirmation of the South Carolina Senate.

Watch the video here.

“For over forty years, good government reformers have fought to bring greater accountability to education by allowing the governor to appoint the superintendent,” said Inez Tenenbaum, who oversaw the S.C. Department of Education under both Republican and Democratic gubernatorial administrations before being appointed to federal office by President Obama. “The question that needs to be addressed is who is ultimately responsible for education. Is it the superintendent? The governor? The General Assembly? The State Board of Education? If everyone is responsible, then no one is held responsible. It just becomes an endless circle of finger pointing.”

Ted Pitts, President and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, suggested the political nature of the job interview process discourages excellent candidates who may not make the best politicians. “South Carolina is missing out on the most qualified candidates. Few people are prepared to put their livelihoods on hold for a year to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and undergo the rigors of the campaign trail,” said Pitts. “The state superintendent is the CEO of an organization with more than a thousand employees. Imagine if Fortune 500 companies with budgets as large as the South Carolina Department of Education selected their CEOs by popular vote. I can tell you the best people wouldn’t get the job.”

The appointment process sets in place qualifications for office that currently do not exist in South Carolina. These qualifications include a minimum of a master's degree in education or business and substantial experience in education or operational and financial management. Currently the requirement is only to be a registered voter within the state. Supporters of the appointment point to a certified Democratic nominee who was recently discovered to be a convicted felon and claimed to hold at least one degree that can not be substantiated. In recent years candidates seeking to be chief of South Carolina public schools did not hold a high school diploma. Lou Kennedy, CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals and S.C. Chamber Chairman, says, “It is frightening to think that our children’s future, and the future of our state, could fall into the hands of someone wholly unqualified. Our students deserve better. We must set basic standards for this important office.”     

Voters will decide on the government restructuring measure due in large part to efforts of current State Superintendent Molly Spearman, who will also be up for re-election on the November 6th ballot. “I worked closely with both Governor Haley and Governor McMaster to urge the legislature to put this decision to the people,” said Spearman.  “If we want to continue to move our schools in the right direction, the governor and superintendent must have a common vision for education. The current structure of divided leadership can result in split priorities, a lack of concentrated coordination, and fragmented accountability. We must come together with a shared vision for better schools and a brighter future that makes education a top priority for the state’s highest office holder.”

South Carolina is one of only a handful of states that continues to elect their state school chief. If passed, the new system of appointment would take effect January 1 of 2023 or upon vacancy of the current office.

 

About the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce

The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s first state chamber Accredited with Distinction by the U.S. Chamber, is the state’s largest statewide broad-based business and industry trade association. As a champion for business, the Chamber is a catalyst for increasing wealth and enhancing the state’s global competitiveness in order to improve the quality of life for all South Carolinians.

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