By FITSNews || Touting aggressive funding and accountability reforms and more choices for parents, Dutch Fork (S.C.) High School teacher Kelly Payne kicked off her campaign for State Superintendent of Education on Thursday with a far-ranging policy speech that put to rest any doubts as to whether or not hers would be a substantive candidacy.
“We spend $8.4 billion a year on education and yet teachers are still forced to pay for the supplies they need out of their own pockets, even in well-funded districts,” Payne said. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with that.”
Payne also blasted a system “that gets more money every year and yet less than half of that money is actually going to the classrooms.”
As a remedy, Payne proposed eliminating South Carolina’s current funding delivery system – complete with what she called its “army of bureaucrats” – and replacing it with a streamlined system of block grants that would be sent directly to districts based on student population.
Additionally, Payne said that if elected she would post all of the state’s education expenses online so that “taxpayers can see not only how much money we are spending … but where that money is going down to the last nickel.”
“This is a small up-front cost that will pay huge dividends down the road,” Payne said.
Payne also took aim at South Carolina’s failed accountability efforts, which she said are too expensive and fail to provide teachers with the data they need to do their jobs.
“We cannot move a few letters around and call it accountability,” Payne said, referring to South Carolina’s shift from the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test (PACT) to the equally costly and ineffective Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS). “We have to insist on real reform.”
She also took direct aim at the politicization of the State Superintendent’s office as well as the Education Oversight Committee, saying she would support moving the functions of both agencies under the Cabinet of future governors. Of course Payne quickly added that “much more than structure we need to start worrying about getting the job done with respect to accountability.”
“That – in a nutshell – is the problem in Columbia,” Payne said. “Everyone wants more authority but they don’t want the responsibility that comes with it.”
Payne also sought to differentiate herself from the state’s two previous superintendents, one of whom is currently running for governor while the other works in Washington in the administration of President Barack Obama.
“I don’t dream of going to the governor’s mansion or Washington D.C. one day,” Payne said. “Not unless I’m leading a field trip. When I’m done turning this system around, I am going to go back to being a teacher.”
Not surprisingly, Payne has the political establishment scared.
Along with the television news cameras, the campaign manager for Newberry College President Mitchell Zais – who is also running for State Superintendent – was in the crowd videotaping Payne’s remarks.
And within minutes of Payne stepping to the podium FITS had already received an email chastising her choice of venue, saying that she should have known that EdVenture Children’s Museum was the recent recipient of a federal “stimulus” grant.
And why wouldn’t they be scared?
As much as we’ve always been big fans of Payne’s, we had no idea she was going to step to the plate with such a substantive speech right out of the gate.