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Superintendent of Education candidates

Gary Burgess

Former Anderson 4 superintendent

We need to audit the State Department of Education to determine where the money is and how it is being used and we need to audit public schools to determine how much money they have in reserve funds and other accounts. I estimate, currently, the 85 school districts of South Carolina have about $800 million to $1 billion in such funds. A portion of this money should be used to offset any cuts. Additionally, we must comprehensively reform our revenue stream in this state without increasing the overall tax burden on our citizens.

Elizabeth Moffly

Mount Pleasant business owner

The S.C. Department of Education has been fiscally irresponsible in many ways. An example is the increased credit requirements for high school graduation. They are not aligned with the number needed for admission to colleges. S.C.state college admission standards, recommended by The Commission of Higher Education, require 19 course credits. However, 24 credits are mandated to graduate from high school. I will align these credits (with college admission standards), saving over a $500 million annually and reducing drop-out rates.

I will have Legislative Audit Council perform a full disclosure audit for accountability and transparency....

I will eliminate all non-essential services and all non-diagnostic testing requirements that are also costing the state millions of dollars annually. ...

I will partner with higher education to allow students more dual-credit courses and exemption credits on placement testing. More lottery money than the current 25 percent of the pie should go to secondary school education.

Brent Nelsen

Furman University professor

We want to do everything in our power to preserve the critical classroom experiences for children learning to read, learning basic math, algebra and those foundational skills. Everything else is secondary.

The 2010-11 budget is essentially at the same level as 2004-05. We need zero-based budgeting to fund only those core functions that work. We need to review all Columbia positions, and at least roll back staffing to 2004 levels. School administrators ought to be asked to teach. The bus system should be privatized. We need more site-based management and flexibility on funds. The funding formulas for the Education Improvement Act need to be overhauled to fit current needs. Federal waivers should be sought for funds use.

Kelly Payne

Dutch Fork H.S. teacher

As Superintendent of Education one of my priorities is to reduce the costs of the bloated bureaucracy that doesn't serve students directly. Too much money is not going to the classroom. Concurrently, we need to review all the rules, requirements and regulations affecting the ability of teachers to actually teach. Why do we pay people to sign off on three different permission forms to allow a guest speaker in a classroom, and require the teacher to spend time completing paperwork like that? Early in my administration I would conduct a series of summits across the state to open the doors of our schools and the minds of our educrats to collaboration with community resources to include business, non-profits and higher education. ...As distasteful as accepting the stimulus money might have been, it's even more foolish to have budgeted it for recurring expenses, making next year's cuts even worse.

Glenn Price

Lugoff-Elgin High School instructor

Even with the benefit of stimulus funds, school district budgets are strained almost to the breaking point. If we expect to reduce the impact of the economy on education we must all agree that the children are our top priority and develop budgets that fund the classroom first. Solutions to the funding problem are as diverse as the school districts themselves, and every possibility must be considered. Such options include school/district consolidation, the use of reserve funds, and participation fees for sports and non-academic activities. We must also make every effort to bring the state legislature, business community, and education leaders together to develop a new approach to guarantee a stable revenue source for public education.

Mick Zais

Newberry College president

Ultimately the General Assembly and the governor will decide how much taxpayer money to allocate to education in the next budget. However, there are several steps policymakers should take to reform school financing and operations. First, school funding should be based on the students served, not the programs operated. There are currently 76 different education funding streams for school districts, and a small army of accountants are necessary to track these dollars. Streamlining the funding will reduce administrative overhead at the state and district levels.