Public Education in South Carolina

August 2, 2020

A strong public education system is important for all of us in many ways. It helps drive the local economy by providing an educated workforce and by attracting families and businesses to the area. The great school districts in Fort Mill and Rock Hill are often the main reason that people move to our community, and if we want to maintain this status, we need to ensure that our schools and teachers are properly funded.

Unfortunately, South Carolina has consistently been among the worst states in public education in the US, currently ranking 44th in the nation. Much of this can be attributed to a lack of adequate funding for over a decade. The average salary for a public school teacher is far lower in our state than the national average. While the state legislature did approve a raise for teachers last year, the minimum starting salary for SC teachers is still only $35,000, and we are still 42nd in the nation for teacher pay. This is simply not enough for these highly educated professionals who ensure our children’s future, many of whom have student debt they incurred in their quest to become such an important asset to our communities.

My opponent, Rep. Raye Felder, is the chair of the House Education K-12 Committee. Last year, she voted against reducing class sizes, and also against giving teachers a 30-minute break in the day (which is required by labor laws for other professions, but somehow does not apply to teachers). I want educators to receive the respect they deserve and be treated like the professionals that they are. A common problem I have heard of from teachers is that they often are given extra duties or are expected to attend meetings that interfere with their lunch and planning time. As a result, they may have very little time to eat lunch, and also have to complete their work outside of work hours, including nights and weekends. For many, this can result in burnout. This is a major problem, especially when we rely on schools to help address problems for children such as food insecurity, abuse, and lack of healthcare, and when we expect educators to come between our children and a school shooter. Though these problems are symptoms of the larger failings of our society that also need to be addressed, we must acknowledge that we rely on educators in a multitude of ways, and we should incentivize outstanding people to join and remain in the profession.

Added to this is the issue of reopening schools in the face of COVID-19. If elected, I will support fully funding efforts to keep our students and teachers safe, including adequate sick leave, providing face masks, physical barriers, cleaning supplies, physical distancing, and additional janitorial staff, as well as upgrading ventilation systems in older facilities where needed. I believe that teachers who do not feel comfortable returning to in-person teaching should not be forced to do so in order to keep their jobs, although I know there are many teachers who do want to return to in-person instruction. My wish is to support teachers in whatever they decide to do in this pandemic, the same way we support parents’ decisions for their children’s schooling. I am fully committed to advocating for teachers and listening to their needs, because if we want to keep great teachers in our school districts, we have to protect them. Our children’s future depends on it.

My opponent has been on the House Education Committee for the last 7 years, and I think that speaks for itself in light of our national rankings. She receives significant contributions from those who want to privatize public education, which would not only dismantle the great public school districts in Fort Mill and Rock Hill, but would also result in worse outcomes for many children throughout the state, particularly those from low-income households. The success and well-being of our community and state depend on our ability to attract and retain top-notch educators, and to educate a well-qualified workforce. I will fight for our schools, teachers, and kids, in order to foster opportunity for all of our citizens.

Join me to help actually work for our kids rather than just giving lip service to public education. Donate to my campaign. Thank you for your support!