- Associated Press - Monday, October 20, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Both major party candidates to be South Carolina’s top educator said Monday that they support the idea of revamping school funding guidelines and are in favor of looking at ways to do that in a more equitable way.

Republican Molly Spearman and Democrat Tom Thompson talked about the issues facing the state’s next education superintendent on South Carolina Educational Television. The debate was taped at 2 p.m. Monday and will be shown on statewide SCETV networks at 7 p.m.

Spearman was director of the South Carolina School Administrators Association. Thompson is a former dean of graduate studies at South Carolina State University.

A third-party candidate, Ed Murray of the American Party, was not invited. Current Republican superintendent Mick Zais isn’t seeking re-election.

Here are the candidates’ thoughts on a couple major topics facing education.



On Monday, both candidates said they’d favor looking at a way to fund schools more equitably. Spearman said she would stress to lawmakers that more than one-time money is needed to ensure schools have a steady funding stream and implement local solutions.

“It can’t just be a one-year fix,” Spearman said.

Thompson said he would favor exploring a funding model that would share more of the wealth when a large corporation like Boeing or BMW comes to a certain part of the state. Spearman agreed, saying that she’d favor looking at ways to share part of that benefit, given that such companies get incentives from the state.

Spearman stressed that South Carolina’s school funding model is middle-aged and is based on severely outdated methods.

“We put too much burden on the local community, and I do think it’s a state responsibility,” she said.



In previous encounters, the two candidates have disagreed on federal involvement in education, particularly when it comes to Common Core. The math and English benchmarks have been adopted in dozens of states, including South Carolina, and describe what students should know after completing each grade, so they’re ready for college and careers after high school.

On Monday, Spearman said she supported state lawmakers’ decision to set up panel to review the state’s standards, reiterating her opinion that “Washington does become too involved sometimes.”

“We have to have high standards approved by South Carolinians,” Spearman said. “That will be my No. 1 focus.”

Thompson said the process of determining exactly what the standards will look like needed to be a collaborative one and said that, as education chief, he would be responsible for bringing in the right people to get the job done.

“The federal government is not the problem here,” Thompson said. “The federal government is not our enemy.”

Spearman said she has already begun discussions with people who are involved in evaluating the current standards.

“I’m very optimistic,” she said, saying it’s vital to teach children how to problem solve and not just regurgitate information.


Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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