New superintendent should lead reforms
The door is currently wide open for substantive education changes in our state, especially with the governor's new reform package and a new superintendent set to take over in January.
State Superintendent Mick Zais - who has announced he will not seek reelection - doesn't really have much to hang his hat on after serving one term. While the office doesn't necessarily wield much power, it certainly offers a bully pulpit - one that Zais hasn't heavily used during his time in power.
Local school districts and the state legislature generally set spending priorities and carry out policy decisions, but that shouldn't stop the superintendent from being heard in Columbia.
Despite the limitations of the job, Zais certainly made headlines during his time in office, especially when he refused to apply for $50 million worth of federal Federal Race to the Top funds - drawing criticism from several statewide teacher associations.
Whoever is elected in November will hopefully be able to create more substantive change. Zais' tenure has mostly been highlighted by his advocacy for tax breaks and school choice. The next administration should look to make a more resourceful and transformative investment in public schools.
Gov. Nikki Haley and her likely general election opponent S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, have both shown a willingness to support public education - a mentality much different than former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford's time as the state's top executive.
While Haley hasn't always shown a great propensity toward investing in public education - she previously proposed budget cuts and vetoed education proposals - she's shifted to a reform package that will invest $160 million toward public schools. Sheheen has also been an advocate for education reform - most recently helping to pass a bill that expands 4-year-old kindergarten in the state.
The race for superintendent is already a crowded one with two Democrats and four Republicans vying for the position, and several other names attached to possible runs.
It's commendable to see so many people seeking the office, but it's also imperative that the winning candidate follow the footsteps of Haley and Sheheen and concentrate on key public education reforms.
With the opportunities available in the near future, it's the perfect chance for education leaders to get serious and spearhead some worthwhile initiatives for the future.
Keep pushing for incremental immigration solutions
President Barack Obama recently sounded this alarm: “If Congress continues to stand only for dysfunction and delay, then I'm going to move ahead without them.”
The president (reprised) that warning of executive orders in .... the State of the Union speech.
But he also (took) a less confrontational stance on immigration.
Evidently, President Obama remains hopeful for positive legislative action on that front.
And while many conservatives remain resistant to overdue immigration reform, there are encouraging signs from both parties in Washington that at least some elements of it can finally be achieved this year.
Politico reported last week that “the White House is trying to dial down the partisan rhetoric on immigration - and it's asking its allies to do the same.”
That continues an encouraging administration shift that began a month ago, when the president backed away from his demand that the Republican House approve the comprehensive immigration overhaul passed by the Senate last June.
Instead, the White House has been signaling willingness to take a step-by-step legislative approach on immigration.
That has given House Speaker John Boehner and other prominent GOP lawmakers who favor immigration reform the time and political space to effectively negotiate with not just Democrats but fellow Republicans.
Yes, serious debate persists about the Senate bill's “pathway to citizenship.”
However, there should be no debate on this point: Any practical immigration solution must include a process by which some of the estimated 11 million people in this country illegally can gain legal status. Many of those illegal immigrants have long been working - and productive - U.S. residents. They are assets especially for the agriculture, construction and hospitality industries.