Four years ago, I was honored to earn the nomination of the South Carolina Republican Party for the Office of State Superintendent of Education. Republicans had many choices in 2010 and they have another large field of candidates to choose from this year.
I have strongly endorsed one of those candidates – Meka Childs – because in my opinion she is uniquely qualified to lead the transformation of education in our state. Like me, Ms. Childs is a conservative who believes in putting the interests of students and parents ahead of the interests of the education special- interest lobby groups.
For years the South Carolina Republican platform has contained a school choice plank. The most current version states in part:
“We acknowledge public schooling is a function of the State and support our history of state-sanctioned local control, but also believe that no student should be forced because of attendance zones to attend a school that is not serving them well. Every child in South Carolina must have access to an excellent education. To this end, we support the concept of ‘school choice’ and affirm the right and responsibility of parents to make the best education decisions for their children, whether they home-school their children or send them to private or parochial schools of their choice.”
As Republicans go to the polls next month, they should consider where the candidates stand on school choice. Meka Childs is a strong supporter of all forms of school choice: traditional schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, home schooling, and private schools. She supports providing scholarships to students with disabilities who may be better served in a private school.
One candidate has a long history of opposing school choice: Molly Spearman, a former Democrat lawmaker who now leads a lobby group, the SC Association of School Administrators (SCASA).
Spearman and her organization have forcefully opposed the General Assembly’s efforts to allow individuals and businesses to contribute to charities that give scholarships to students with disabilities so they can attend private schools that better meet their needs. Given Spearman’s track record, if she were state superintendent she would be in a position to advocate for eliminating these scholarships.
Spearman and SCASA were also aggressive advocates for legislation to eliminate one of the three home school options permissible under state law. At least she is consistent in her disdain for parents exercising their right to choose a learning environment that is a good fit for their child.
Politicians like Spearman often change their positions when seeking political office. But in reviewing Spearman’s campaign website and social media postings, there is absolutely no support for any form of school choice: public charter schools, virtual schools, home schooling, single-gender, or Montessori-style programs.
Opportunist politicians like Spearman, who have a record of fighting Republicans and our Party platform, don’t deserve your vote. In the past, Spearman has switched parties to win election. Once elected, there’s nothing to prevent her from leaving the Republican Party and declaring herself a Democrat again. Since 2004, 95% of Spearman’s political contributions have been to Democrats, many who ran against Republican candidates who were supporters of school choice.
Our Party doesn’t need a candidate like Spearman who is neither committed to school choice nor to the conservative cause. School choice is a critical part of the Republican platform. I strongly urge Republican primary voters to vote for Meka Childs and eliminate Spearman’s candidacy from any consideration.