- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s eight candidates for superintendent of education squared off in a televised debate Tuesday on ETV over what should replace Common Core and how to simplify the funding formula for schools.

While all the candidates agreed on rewriting state standards to reflect South Carolina values, state Association of School Administrators director Molly Spearman and University of South Carolina math professor Don Jordan were alone in speaking out for keeping Common Core’s emphasis of critical thinking in order to prepare students for employment.

Spearman said, “One of the important pieces of Common Core that we need to be sure that will be in our new South Carolina standards is that our students do not just spit out facts but that they do know how to problem-solve and they do know how to work together.”

Another important issue was funding formulas for school districts.

Special needs teacher Sally Atwater said she opposes raising taxes and supports Gov. Nikki Haley’s education reform package for a fairer education formula.

“We need more accountability at the local schools level and at the state Department of Education so we can get more money back down to the classroom,” Atwater said.

Spearman said the current Education Finance Act is outdated and has been funded piecemeal for 50 years.

“It would be nice to have more dollars in school districts but the reality is that tax revenue is not just there,” said Spearman. “I would love to lead the conversation in working in that new funding formula that is simpler, that people can understand, that would direct and target dollars to programs that work.”

Tuesday night’s debate was broadcast by ETV. Also participating were Anderson County School Board member Gary Burgess, former deputy superintendent of education Meka Childs, attorney Amy Cofield, activist Sheri Few and Charleston School Board member Elizabeth Moffly.

They also touched on several other subjects:


. Childs spoke in favor of state funding for vouchers to send children to private schools, home schooling and charter schools. She said the freedom for parents to choose would help improve the overall education system.

. Few likewise expressed support for vouchers and said the free market offers a solution that would instill competition in the education system.



. Most of the candidates affirmed the need to teach the state science standards in the classroom despite personal faith that may or may not conflict with them.

. Childs said the issue raises the importance of allowing parents to choose whether to send their child to a public or private school.

. Few said intelligent design and evolution should be taught side by side in science class. She said, “Children could receive an objective education and also for Christian children could point to their God through the theory of intelligent design.”



. The candidates all favor a fairer teacher evaluation system and rejected tying teacher evaluation to student performance.

The primary is June 10.

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