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By FITSNews || It gives us no great pleasure to endorse Newberry College President Mick Zais over Elizabeth Moffly in next week’s Republican runoff election for State Superintendent of Education – as we’re sure it probably gives Zais no great pleasure to receive our endorsement.

It’s not that we dislike Zais (or vice versa, we hope), we simply aren’t convinced that he’s the reformer that South Carolina parents and taxpayers need in this critical position after twelve years of status quo mismanagement under Democrats Jim Rex and Inez Tenenbaum.

Also, it’s no secret that we were solidly in the camp of Dutch Fork High School teacher Kelly Payne.  Not only did Payne articulate the most comprehensive vision for this position, she would have brought a vital ground-level perspective to the job – particularly as it relates to getting tax dollars into the classroom.  Payne was also hands-down the GOP’s best bet to win in November.

Unfortunately, she narrowly missed the runoff.

Now we are confronted with a choice between Zais and Moffly – both of whom have stated their support for long-overdue reforms like parental choice, but neither of whom seems willing to expend significant political capital on their behalf.

Of the two we choose Zais, based in large part on Moffly’s 2006 decision to endorse Rex – which played a key role in helping him secure his razor-thin margin of victory (and which subjected our school children to four more years of institutional failure).

Whoever ascends to this office in January 2011 has their work cut out for them, though.

First and foremost, our next Superintendent must advocate relentlessly for a universal choice plan – not some limited, means-tested “pilot” program.  After all, South Carolina’s current disaster calls for real reform – not more of the same half-measures (a.k.a. “Reform In Name Only”).

Second, they must radically restructure the current funding formula to make sure that education dollars follow the child, not the bureaucrats.  There’s absolutely no sense whatsoever in pumping more money into a system that spends half of every dollar on non-classroom expenses – and “backpacking” money is the best (and fairest) way that we’ve seen to address a host of inequities.

Third, our next Superintendent must scrap our state’s failed assessment and accountability “standards” and replace them with diagnostic tests that give teachers the ability to see what their students are (and are not) learning.  These tests must also allow for apples-to-apples comparisons with other states, something we currently don’t have.

Fourth, they must implement merit-based raises for teachers as opposed to raises based on national certification.

Fifth, our next Superintendent must support the ability of future governors to appoint their position as part of the executive Cabinet, not permit it to continue existing as its own island of underachievement.

Sixth, they must require every educational expense to be placed in an online checkbook so that taxpayers can break down each dime of the record $9.5 billion they spend

Finally, they must champion consolidation at all levels of the public school system – including school district consolidation.

It’s a tall order, to be sure, but absent these (and other) reforms, South Carolina will continue producing the nation’s worst public school system at increasingly exorbitant costs …

WEB EXTRA
In Their Own Words – School Choice