Dear Teachers of South Carolina,
I will always stand by you. I will always stand up for you. I will always seek your counsel. I will always fight for what is best for our students and parents, our teachers, and our classrooms.
And I will never duck, dodge, or deceive you.
Let’s start there. Let’s start with this promise, that I will live up to these principles every hour, every day, every week, and every month in office, working hand in hand with you to reform public education in South Carolina.
Together we can bring about the transformative changes needed to make ALL of our schools prospering learning communities for every student in our state regardless of zip code. Central to this are the dramatic changes needed in our public school system to make the profession of teaching in South Carolina a desired destination for the best and the brightest.
How do we bring this vision to life?
By streamlining our spiderweb of spending formulas and processes to ensure the maximum number of dollars reach the actual classroom and by implementing policies that empower you, the teachers, to be the best professionals you can be for the children of our state.
The future progress of our schools is inextricably linked to the realities of school funding. It is my firm belief, supported by data, that not enough funding that is allocated for instruction and instructional support is actually making it to the classroom it was intended for. Too much of this funding is tied up in programs and positions that are neither in the classroom nor do they benefit our classrooms in any way, shape, or form.
The reality is that for every problem in education there is a program, plan, or initiative. And for every program, plan, and initiative there are hundreds or more planners and organizers hard at work.
And yet, this has not and will not be the solution to the problems we face. Ensuring a high-quality teacher in every classroom. Meeting the supply and technology needs of every classroom. And keeping unnecessary programs, plans, and initiatives out of the classroom are the launchpads of progress.
By streamlining our funding formulas and processes, we can accomplish these goals and more. We can within five years move our average teacher pay into the top twenty nationally. We can recognize and reward those teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty in developing and facilitating high yield learning experiences for our students. And we can compete with other professions to both recruit and retain the best and the brightest teachers our state and nation have to offer.
However, we know that money is not the only answer to constructing a better learning environment for our students.
Not only must we ensure that every classroom has a high-quality teacher with the talent, skills, and ideas to create the culture of learning needed for the 21st century. We have to empower, support, and listen to you, our teachers, and recognize that you possess many of the answers needed to confront the challenges of now.
We have to provide you with time, the most precious of commodities, to plan, to grade, to meet with students free from meetings, duties, and other miscellaneous requirements that divert you from the significant task at hand, educating our children. To that end, we should expand unencumbered planning time; establish the standard of a thirty-minute duty, meeting, and requirement-free lunch; and consider adding additional, compensated and unencumbered days to the school calendar to allow you the time to do the things you know you need to do as a teacher.
I will create a new Superintendent Advisory Council, made up of teachers and selected by teachers, from across the state to meet quarterly to hear your concerns, needs, and ideas for improving our classrooms.
And finally, I will come to you. Not to speak, not for a photo op, but to listen and act on those things, you, the front line professional, say we need to do to move our classrooms out of the mire of the status quo.
The challenges before us are not easy. And they cannot be met by the faint-hearted, fanatical, or those disciples of the status quo. These are some of the hardest times we have seen in education. But we can, and must, confront the challenge before us.
Ultimately, together, we must try new things, new approaches, to meet the crisis of now. If these new ideas and approaches fail, we must admit it, and try something else.
But by all means we must try. We have to be willing to be bold and brave in our reforms in all areas of education. To not challenge the orthodoxies of the status quo is to fail another generation of children whom we are entrusted to educate. And failure is not an option.
Let’s begin this journey together to move forward toward a brighter tomorrow in education.
Together for Students,
Republican Candidate for State Superintendent of Education