Tom Ervin: “Something Must Change”

SOUTH CAROLINA’S FUTURE GENERATIONS NEED “LEADERSHIP, NOT PROMISES” By Tom Ervin  ||  One report on the recent escalation of inmate violence in prisons across South Carolina reads, “Inmates were literally pulling cinder blocks out of the walls…”  What can we do to repress the violence?  The answer always seems to…


tom ervinBy Tom Ervin  ||  One report on the recent escalation of inmate violence in prisons across South Carolina reads, “Inmates were literally pulling cinder blocks out of the walls…”  What can we do to repress the violence?  The answer always seems to be hire more guards, build more secure prisons — spend more money.

The problem is we already spend $16,542 per inmate in South Carolina.

What’s worse is that we only spend $9,877 per public student in South Carolina.

Ranked 10th in the United States for incarceration, our state sends more people to prison than the other 40 states.

What’s the quickest path to incarceration?  Research consistently proves that dropping out of high school and college is the cause.  A student who drops out of high school is 63 percent more likely to end up in prison compared to a college graduate.

How do we stack up to the rest of the country when it comes to graduation rates?  South Carolina ranks in the bottom third of states, and dead last when it comes to rural communities.

Something must change — statistically we are sentencing our children to a future of poverty and incarceration.

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  As long as we continue to spend more of our tax dollars on criminals than our students — our future — I think it’s safe to say South Carolina’s priorities are insane and we should expect the same result: more prisoners, less graduates.

Every child, regardless of economic background, has a fundamental right to a quality education.  Not just because it will save us money in the long term, but because they deserve an opportunity—– that’s the promise of America.

Funding priorities are not the only plague on our education system.  We know throwing money at the problem doesn’t solve it.  We need to reform our education system from its foundation.  Every child must have access to a solid start with pre-K.

We now have decades of research that show substantial and sustained benefits from introducing children to classrooms at an early age, including increased high school graduation, employment and decreased incarceration.  That’s right, decreased incarceration rates — starting to see a pattern?

Pre-K also has remarkable short-term benefits.  Data from a pre-K study conducted in Oklahoma showed that poor students who attended public pre-K were 11 months ahead of their peers when entering kindergarten, and near-poor students were 10 months ahead, but even middle-class students were seven months ahead.

Pre-K isn’t cheap, but investing our tax dollars in preschool for disadvantaged students is cost-effective, yielding long-term benefits of as much as $10 for every $1 spent.

It’s also worth noting that the pre-K system in Oklahoma is funded by a public-private partnership.  We should welcome the same type of financing strategy here in South Carolina.

In addition to pre-K for every child, school choice should also be a fundamental right afforded to every parent and child in our state. Children learn differently — speeds, styles, atmospheres — ask any teacher.  Parents must be empowered to send their children to whichever school they believe will best serve them, whether it’s a charter school, public school, magnet school or home schooling.

To ensure parents truly have choices in their child’s education, we must address Common Core.  We do not need President Barack Obama telling us that Washington knows how to teach our kids better than we do.  While Gov. Nikki Haley has been all over the map on the issue, I am steadfast in my position.  We don’t need Common Core, we need common sense.

We also must give every child the opportunity of an affordable college education.  I propose we lock in college tuition at the freshman year.

Locking in college tuition at the freshman year has three benefits.  First, it helps cash-strapped families and students better manage costs. Second, locking in tuition rates for four years incentivizes students to graduate on-time.  Last, fixed-rate tuition stabilizes funding for our universities and allows them to plan with more predictability.

KidsCount released its 2014 survey on the well-being of our nation’s children: South Carolina’s children ranked 43rd in the country on education. Our state government has refused to take ownership of this problem.  We need more than promises of education reform: We need leadership to translate ideas into action.

Tom Ervin is an independent Republican candidate for governor.  This piece – reprinted with permission – originally ran in The Greenville News.  For more information on Ervin and his candidacy, go to

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Smirks September 4, 2014 at 8:45 am

Pre-K for Everyone: It’d be nice, but good luck getting it paid for.

School Choice: Please elaborate more. People already have the choice between public school, paying for private school, or home schooling. How are you going to facilitate this extra “choice”? Will parents really have the power of “choice” here? Please don’t give us any voucher clown nonsense.

No Common Core: Great! Since SC is pretty much bottom of the barrel education-wise, please explain how you would go about improving curriculum in public schools. Otherwise, this “I’m against Common Core” thing doesn’t just sound like, but actually is, bullshit political posturing.

Locking Tuition: Not a bad proposal at first glance, however universities will up tuition in a manner to counter that. What you need is better funding for public universities, coupled with someone who can and will slap the university’s hand every time they reach into the cookie jar until their spending has come down considerably. Locked tuition doesn’t mean shit if it’s still exorbitantly high tuition.

I think your ideas need more work, as they don’t properly address the issues here.

Centrist View September 4, 2014 at 9:52 am

For about half the students in SC public schools, more than 300,000, school choice is a moot point. They ride the school bus. Can’t have school choice it they do not have transportation the school of choice.

The Legislature would have to appropriate money to pay for a few thousand more school buses, hire a few thousand more bus drivers and additional support staff, and burn a few more million gallons of bus fuel every school year so that every bus rider has their choice of school. If not, then who does school choice really benefit?

The Colonel September 4, 2014 at 10:13 am

Not the case that a bus ride precludes choice – many private schools have buses and then there’s that age old thing known as a car pool.

The Colonel September 4, 2014 at 9:15 am

“…Ranked 10th in the United States for incarceration, our state sends more people to prison than the other 40 states… Wow, really more “than the other 40 states”? Do you mean that we send more criminals to prison than 40 of the 50 states? I’m trying to figure out:

a. your grammar challenged assertion
b. why that is necessarily a bad thing seeing as how we also lead the nation in “male on female domestic violence murders”. The national average cost per prisoner is close to $30,000 so $16,500 or so seems like a bargain to me.

Do we have issues with education – absolutely but the correlation between education spending and incarcerations are far more complex than you allude to. Oklahoma spends far less per pupil, incarcerates far more citizens per 100,000 and has a drop out rate of 3% and ranks far higher than SC in educational achievement. Texas on the other hand has an identical incarceration rate to Oklahoma, spends about the same ($7,300 per pupil) yet has a 12% drop out rate (4 times Oklahoma’s) but no corresponding jump in incarcerations. Maine (the lowest incarceration rate) only spends $200 more than we do per pupil in the “loosey gooseiest” education system in the country, routinely mixing public monies with private schools in joint ventures.

South Carolina spends more on education than the national average per pupil (Nat average is $9,389), has fewer citizens incarcerated per 100,000 than the national average (716) and we’re next to worst on HS graduation (61%) and frankly one doesn’t drive the other except in your overly simplistic world view.

+1 for you September 4, 2014 at 11:05 am

Yep. Gotta love Republicans cheer leading for more money into a failing system by calling such systems “fundamental rights”…it’s not a big ideological bridge between them and the Dems that they’d have you believe.

Centrist View September 4, 2014 at 9:44 am

“What can we do to repress the violence? ”

Expression, not repression, is the answer. Do with prisoners what that do in the Philippines: Let them dance.

Philippine Prison – Dancing Inmates 2010 Tribute to Michael Jackson

Psy’s Gangnam Style performed by Filipino prisoners

mark September 4, 2014 at 9:51 am

First off, we need a leader with intelligence, morals and integrity…something we haven’t had in many years. Nikki had 4 years to do something right and she disappointed. Vote and vote smart…Ervin, Sheheen, or French.

Rocky Loves Sandi September 4, 2014 at 12:08 pm

You go Tom. You go. I’m siding with TOm and T-Rav – the two T’s, the Rumbe and the Thunder. The one two punch. The new GOP for South Carolina. Hey, where’s Sandi on this one?

hwy 93 September 4, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Vote for Tom Ervin and you are voting for pre_k children being brainwashed with the radical homosexual/lesbian agenda.

Ervin supports state sanctioned gay marriage.

you know me September 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Teach those who are incarcerated a trade. Let the prison system give back to the taxpayers who support the system.

voteforkids September 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm

First Steps directors Susan DeVenny and Dan Wuori are a big part of the problem: one of many recent audits found after more than ten years with DeVenny as director they have not helped kids get ready for school, reported “questionable statistics” to the public, board members don’t show for meetings, DeVenny owes thousands to SC for unreported leaves and they screwed up the funding allocations for all 46 local offices

FUBAR September 4, 2014 at 10:07 pm

First steps has a private prek program but it is FUBAR . Can’t enroll students or get reimbursement in time to keep the program in business.

Stinkbait September 4, 2014 at 2:09 pm

A wise friend once said there are two things every SC citizen is gifted with from birth: coaching the USC football team & running the SC Dept. of Corrections. Now it seems that includes how to fix the sorry state of our public schools. There’s enough blame to be shared by the school system, community, churches, Obama’s Common Core, teaching-the-test, gang presence, peer pressure, no tax credit for tuition etc., etc.; but it seems no politician is willing to go where the underlying truth lies: irresponsible, uninterested, absentee parents who are not held accountable for their minor children’s behavior. And another thing, there are as many people in SC’s prisons as a result of overindulgent parents as from neglect or abuse. A white high school kid with his new BMW on Clemson Rd. is as much at risk as a black one wearing a red rag on Broad River Rd..


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