SC's Education Excellence Agenda
South Carolina’s education crisis is urgent. COVID has exposed fault lines that have been growing for decades. But this could be South Carolina’s greatest moment of education opportunity if we come together to focus on results for students, to empower parents, and to support great teachers.
Ellen’s plan for educational excellence in South Carolina is built on three important principles:
Equip students to pursue their unique needs and personal goals, empower parents to exercise their God-given rights, cut red tape to allow educators to do their jobs effectively, and keep decision-making authority as close to the student as possible.
Deliver a high-quality education for every child. Maintain a laser focus on academic outcomes that are measured in a fair and transparent way, as well as total financial transparency so that taxpayers know their money is actually being spent.
Provide equal access to education opportunities for every student, no matter their family’s income level or zip code. This also means a strong focus on students with special needs and special gifts, to help them realize their unique potential.
“Every student deserves access to a high-quality education, in a learning environment that best supports their needs, free from political indoctrination.”
1. Laser-focus on literacy and math skills to get all students on track for success.
We must simplify and clarify South Carolina’s standards to prioritize the basic skills children need to be successful in other vitally important subject areas like history, the sciences, and the arts. This means a strong focus on phonics and knowledge building—the proven science of reading—especially in the early grades.
2. Unleash access to high-quality education options for every student.
Education is not one-size-fits-all. Parents of every income level should be empowered to find the right educational environment for their child’s unique needs. This includes creating school choice scholarships, supporting public charter schools, expanding public school open enrollment, allowing tax credits for homeschool expenses, growing high-quality online course access programs, and allowing new innovations like learning pods and micro-schools to develop without bureaucratic red tape.
3. Advocate for Children with Special Needs
Children with physical or cognitive challenges that impact their learning have limitless potential…if we partner with parents to develop it. Despite the best efforts of loving special ed teachers and specialists, too often, frustrated families often find themselves lost in a sea of acronyms, bureaucratic red tape, and unaccommodating process. These valuable students deserve the best, and we must listen to their parents to best support their unique potential.
“Parents are their children’s first teacher. Their rights must be defended and their participation welcomed and encouraged, as primary partners in their child’s education.”
1. Defend parents’ right to direct their child’s education.
Parents deserve the opportunity to regularly engage in the process of educating their child – that includes providing input to state leaders on a regular basis. While this is particularly important for families navigating the special needs processes, all parents deserve an advocate in the Superintendent’s office. Restoring parental trust in education through a listening ear and total transparency must be a top priority.
2. Protect children from political indoctrination in every form.
Ideologies like Critical Race Theory, under any name or guise are wrong. These political philosophies form a worldview that attempts to indoctrinate students in a biased version of reality, usurp parental authority and values, and distract from the real purpose of education. They have no place in South Carolina’s K-12 classrooms and should not be forced on teachers as “professional development.” We must insist on total transparency for all materials and resources used with students and empower teachers and parents to speak up against any political indoctrination in South Carolina schools, while teaching complete and accurate history.
3. Reject COVID mask & vaccine mandates in schools.
Parents have an unequivocal right to make medical decisions on behalf of their children. Parents and teachers must, in consultation with their own health care providers, be allowed to assess personal risk and make the decisions that are best for the unique needs of themselves and their families, free from government coercion and peer pressure from others.
- Students and teachers should not be subject to COVID vaccine mandates.
- Schools should remain open five days a week to serve students in-person.
- Students should not be subject to a universal mask mandate.
“Research shows that teachers are the #1 in-school factor for student success. Recruiting and retaining great public school teachers is essential.”
1. Pay teachers as professionals and raise teacher salaries to the national average in 5 years.
Our current pay scale rewards time in service, titles, and degrees, not initiative and high-quality teaching that delivers for kids. We must reform our current pay scale to keep great teachers in the classroom and create more flexibility to find new ways to recognize teachers who are making a difference and attract new teachers to the profession.
2. Develop and support high quality school leaders.
Leadership in education matters. Great principals set the culture and tone for everything that happens in their school, whether coaching teachers for excellence or having their backs to deal with discipline issues. South Carolina must intentionally cultivate, coach, and empower school leaders to be the CEOs of their schools. And in turn, empower teachers to be CEOs of their classrooms.
3. Provide useful, high-caliber professional development.
All professional development must be high-quality and aligned to clear professional and academic outcomes, such as the science of how to effectively teach reading. Professional development must be more than checking boxes: our educators deserve better at every level.
For Job Creators, Faith Leaders, & Taxpayers
“Preparing students for the jobs of the future and to be honest, engaged citizens is a duty we owe to South Carolina job-creators and taxpayers.”
1. Expand existing apprenticeship programs, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and other real-world learning experiences.
Apprenticeship Carolina, Ready SC, and other CTE initiatives have distinguished South Carolina as a national leader in providing students with opportunities to engage in hands on application of learning. From partnering with industry leaders to creating in-school opportunities, we must elevate, celebrate, and expand multiple educational pathways—whether that means college, career, or the military—in order to equip every student to pursue their individual talents and goals with excellence.
2. Forge new and deeper partnerships between schools and local faith communities and non-profits.
We must harness the time and talents of concerned citizens across this state to create an army of mentors and tutors who go into schools to support teachers and provide real-world role models for students. It is long-past time for the faith community to rise up and reclaim its historic role in education!
3. Insist on total academic and financial transparency.
Taxpayers deserve to know the return they are receiving for their investment of hard-earned dollars. This means providing simple, clear, easily accessible information about both academic achievement and K-12 spending that parents, educators, job creators, and everyday citizens can access and understand. It is time to kick education jargon to the curb, open the books, and invite everyone in the state to the table to engage in the educational success of our students.