Education has always been important to my family. My grandfather, Herb, raised by a widow, was too poor to go to college. My grandmother was smart enough to go to college and her family could have afforded it, but it was outside of societal norms at the time for a married woman to attend when her husband could not. So instead, my grandfather worked his way up through the Army Air Corps and then was fortunate to follow his boss to NASA. He and my grandmother, Sylvia, provided the opportunity for their two children to go to college. At age 99, he is ensuring his great-grandchildren can go to college by investing money in their 529 accounts.
I am the product of public education. I worked hard and ended up with a full scholarship to college. In college, I worked even harder and graduated in less than three years. When I found out my wife was pregnant with our first child, I immediately enrolled in graduate school at the University of South Carolina and a couple years later, with two kids under two, I earned my MBA.
With an unconstitutional school funding formula and an educational reform bill languishing on legislators’ desks, South Carolina is by and large not providing a high enough level of education to all of its students and adults.
I have two young children who attend Whitesides Elementary School on Rifle Range Road. I am more invested in improving our schools than anyone in the race for House Seat 112.
This is what I believe and what I will work hard everyday to accomplish:
We must raise teachers’ pay. Our schools are full of unfilled positions. Young teachers are burning out and recruitment and training is a constant struggle. The average teacher pay in South Carolina is $51,000, with a beginning salary of around $29,000. Here in Charleston County, teachers start out at $38,000. It is impossible to live and raise a family in many areas of the state on these salaries, including here in Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms. We are undervaluing our greatest asset: our teachers.
We must limit classroom sizes. A teacher’s effectiveness is diminished if he or she is teaching too many children at once. The number of schools with more than 28 students per class has more than doubled in recent years from 60 in 2008 to 110 in 2018. This doesn’t just include high schools; it also includes at least 32 elementary schools. We need to add teachers so that we can reduce that number, particularly in rural and underserved areas.
‘Minimally Adequate’ is not adequate. Did you know that our state only guarantees a minimally adequate education to our children? Our S.C. Supreme Court says that is unconstitutional, yet nothing is being done to address it. At my children’s school, the PTA must raise $150,000 a year to fund reading interventionists, the STEAM program and the art teacher, which are all vital to our children’s education. Other areas of our state (and community!) are not as fortunate. These are all basic components of a child’s educational foundation.
Teachers deserve a bill of rights. Our teachers need to know that we have their backs and that we as a society value the important work they do. I support the creation of a teacher’s bill of rights that clearly delineates the rights and expectations bestowed upon teachers, including giving them the ability to remove disruptive students, having adequate break times and formalizing a process to appeal to the school board when they feel their rights have been violated.
Start education earlier. We need to expand Pre-K to all of our state’s students. Studies show that high quality pre-school education sets students up for success.
We need accessible and affordable college and vocational education. I went to graduate school, and I have the student loans to prove it! We need to make sure that everyone in our state has access to low-cost college and vocational programs, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak that has decimated our economy. We need to work with our state’s community colleges and other institutions of higher learning to expand their online offerings and also to ensure they have programs to retrain displaced workers for jobs that are in demand in South Carolina.
Surely, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all of our needs, but it is where we need to start. With education reform efforts stalled, the entire educational reform process will have to start anew during next year’s legislative session. Let’s make sure District 112 has a representative in place that will put the needs of teachers and students first.