Still looking for the education governor

 

Just so we are absolutely clear, I am not going to vote for anyone for governor who calls our South Carolina public schools “failed.” The latest to perpetuate that lie is Republican Catherine Templeton.

She unveiled an education platform the other day speaking in Mount Pleasant, and just couldn’t resist the “failed” label. Usually, it’s more veiled, as in “We have good education, sure, we have our problems ...” like the words “South Carolina education” and “problems” just have to go hand in hand. It’s an artful way for people who are opponents of public education to syphon off money and “the right kind” of students for their “right kind” of schools.

Every governor and candidate for governor should examine education. But we need a governor who doesn’t pander to the lowest common denominator, who supports the efforts of the state superintendent, and boosts the morale of teachers. Privately, examine the challenges - publicly, be a supportive governor.

Templeton uses all the “right kind” of words to appeal to her base - “school choice,” “arm the teachers,” “appoint (not elect) the state superintendent. All designed to weaken the public education system that for the most part has successfully fed the bloated higher education spider’s web in South Carolina and fueled the manufacturing boom enjoyed by the state right now. If our students are so bad, how are we attracting companies?

Well, they argue, it’s because the COMPANIES are teaching them how to be workers, something our “failed” public education system failed to do. I submit, it’s not education that has “failed”; it’s we that are failing our young people by steering them toward jobs as robot maintenance men and women. There’s nothing wrong with manufacturing - heck, America needs to do more of it. The goal of a public education system should not be graduating a legion of “round pegs for round holes” - all children cookie-cutter the same. We need doctors and lawyers. We need poets and singers. We need pool maintenance people and clothing store owners - it’s the small business community that drives American business. And, yes, for hundreds of young people, we need carpenters and pipe fitters, welders and robot-maintainers. We should not want any of our young people’s dreams not to have an outlet.

We need a governor who is going to celebrate those dreams.

Some of what Templeton says makes sense. South Carolina schools have increased construction spending 140% and instruction spending 14%. Of course, that proportion is way out of whack. You have to wonder, however, if some of that construction spending it’s fueled by decades of “separate but equal” that has left historically black schools vacant and rotting, and traditionally white schools bright and shiny. And, if we have the money - see example, Fairfield County in the hey-day of Mack Truck - what better way to invest it than in schools? For some reason, the state has to put its stamp on local school construction, while not donating one single dime to that construction - it’s just “advising” for the sake of something to do. 

There’s going to be something else that you will hear more and more about in coming years. As Templeton pointed out, there are “numerous” districts with 1,000 students or less. The new governor, I suspect, is going to be an advocate of districts consolidating - likely within county lines. You could have District 56 consolidate with Union County, for instance. It would have to be absorbed by District 55. If they model it after Greenville and Charleston - with area superintendents - that would be fine. Other places, however, I’m not really sure if a “bigger” district is really a better district. I guess it is - one superintendent salary rather than two - but you have to wonder what talents, drive and one-to-one with the students contact you would be giving up by giving that “other” superintendent a pink slip. 

More - not less - caring, smart, communicative adults actively interested in the lives of South Carolina young people - that’s what the next governor should be all about. Where is that person?

 

(Vic MacDonald is Editor of The Clinton Chronicle. His columns appear on the editorial pages and in Blogs at MyClintonNews.com. Reach him at 833-1900 or news@clintonchronicle.net)

 

 

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