A school choice advocate who leads a local conservative think tank said she’s running to be South Carolina’s next state superintendent of education. Ellen Weaver, president and CEO of the Palmetto Promise Institute and chairman of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, announced her candidacy Sunday in an editorial published in The State newspaper. “I’m running for superintendent with a singular focus: an excellent education for every child in South Carolina,” Weaver wrote.
The one-time state director for former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who now leads the advocacy organization he launched in 2013, Weaver vowed to prioritize cutting through the layers of bureaucracy she said had smothered creativity and innovation in the state, tied the hands of teachers and school administrators, and disempowered parents.
Despite spending more money per student than ever before, South Carolina’s education system consistently fails to deliver the educational opportunities its young people deserve, she said. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem, causing some students to fall further behind. “Rather than a laser focus on helping children recover the ‘3 R’s,’ we have learned that precious time and attention is instead being diverted towards force-feeding teachers and students divisive political agendas that have no place in our classrooms,” Weaver wrote. “Is it any wonder perplexed parents across America are standing up to say, ‘Enough!’?”
A Greenville native who now lives in Columbia, Weaver said as superintendent she’d shift more money to students and teachers in the classroom, ensure children have well-trained educators and high-quality curriculum, and emphasize the instruction of foundational skills like literacy and mathematics to prepare children to succeed in life. She also called for total academic and financial transparency, saying parents deserve to know what their children are being taught and taxpayers deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
“I have stood beside parents for years in the fight to assert their right to control their child’s educational future,” Weaver wrote. “I have led one of the largest public policy organizations in South Carolina to fight for conservative principles, like opportunity-focused education policies that recognize the limitless potential of every student. And as chair of the Education Oversight Committee, I have fought every day for transparency on behalf of South Carolina’s kids.”
Prior to leading the Palmetto Promise Institute, which paid her a $103,000 salary in 2020, Weaver spent 12 years working for DeMint, a leader of the Tea Party movement, both in Washington and at his Columbia office. While in Columbia from 2010 to 2013, she served as DeMint’s state director, managing staff and handling communications and outreach, according to a bio posted on the Palmetto Promise Institute’s website. She also sits on the board of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and serves as a deacon and chorister at the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia.
Weaver, who told The State last month she was considering a run for the state’s top schools post, becomes the second candidate to announce her intention to seek outgoing state schools chief Molly Spearman’s job.