Sources at the S.C. Department of Education tell FITS that some friction has developed between Lexington-Richland School District Five and Dutch Fork high school teacher Kelly Payne – the founder of one of South Carolina’s most popular political forums.
In fact, an Upstate Tea Party website has reported that Payne’s “It Kids” guest lecture series has been “quashed by the district” – and Payne’s Facebook page seems to confirm that account.
“While I’m not exactly on the ‘Hollywood’ blacklist yet or under investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee, my District has put the ‘It Kids’ and me on academic freedom restriction,” Payne wrote.
Payne founded the “It Kids” several years ago in an effort to provide her students with unfiltered access to South Carolina’s top statewide officeholders, powerful lawmakers, influential reporters and opinion leaders – which she’s done. Payne’s current issues class has welcomed literally dozens of guests from literally every point along the political spectrum – and she’s always encouraged her kids to ask tough questions once they enter the “Den of Payne.”
Honestly? We’ve seen more intellectual curiosity and intelligent interrogatives coming out of Payne’s classroom than the vast majority of the state’s mainstream media newsrooms. To her credit, Payne has also taken her show on the road – visiting dozens of schools across the state (including “Corridor of Shame” schools that most leaders won’t go near) to share her experiences.
So … what brought about this “quashing?”
According to our sources, Zais was reportedly scheduled to visit Payne’s “It Kids” this week – as former S.C. Superintendent of Education Jim Rex has done in the past – but his visit was blocked by the district.
Why? Apparently these educrats are upset over Zais’ recent refusal to accept a certain pot of federal funds (apparently they neglected to read our criticism of Zais over his request for an increase in education funding in next year’s budget).
S.C. political leaders are already responding incredulously to the district’s action.
“Unbelievable!” S.C. Rep. Garry Smith wrote in response to the news, while encouraging Payne to “continue to speak out!”
While we have no doubt Payne will speak out on behalf of the “It Kids,” although ironically the best thing about this forum is that Payne has never “spoken out” about her political beliefs.
In fact, in welcoming Rex – and attempting to welcome Zais – she was actually inviting a pair of her former political opponents (Payne ran unsuccessfully for State Superintendent of Education in 2010).
“We’re impressed with how Payne – a Republican – keeps her own political views out of the classroom discussion and encourages the kids to debate the issues on their merits,” we wrote on the occasion of Payne welcoming former Democratic Rep. Anne Peterson Hutto.
And Payne’s kids have done just that – and then some. Just ask any of the guests who have visited the “It Kids” over the years and they will tell you that Payne’s students are among the smartest, most engaged and most well-mannered young people in the state.
Isn’t that the sort of interest in current affairs that we want to encourage in this state?
Speaking of “affairs,” Payne’s opponents say that she should have been fired a long time ago given her extramarital tryst with S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom – and the on-again, off-again nature of their relationship.
“I don’t understand why she hasn’t been fired already,” one source told us.
We understand why – because Payne is an amazing teacher. And not just to her students – but to the students she reaches out to in her travels.
Say what you want about her romantic choices, but the last time we checked that has no bearing whatsoever on her ability to instruct and inspire young people – and is certainly no basis to shut down a forum that is giving dozens of high school students an opportunity to meet (and grill) the people that are making important decisions about their future.
We’re not sure what Lexington-Richland Five is thinking, but the “It Kids” forum is a South Carolina political institution – a place where all ideas are welcomed and all issues are debated by the people who matter most, the students who will one day have to run this county. It should be allowed to continue free from bureaucratic meddling, and in our opinion the district should apologize to Payne and Zais for attempting to score political points at their expense.