There was little doubt where a GOP debate for South Carolina’s superintendent of education position was headed when the opening invocation assailed critical race theory (CRT).
Seriously … the opening prayer, people.
Not surprisingly, the candidates for this statewide office followed suit as they addressed a crowd of more than a hundred at Downtown Deli in Bluffton, S.C. on Thursday evening.
“I strongly oppose CRT,” the race’s frontrunner Ellen Weaver said in response to the first question of the debate, which was hosted by the Beaufort County Republican Party (BCGOP).
Weaver, of Greenville, S.C., cited a trickle-down effect from institutions of higher education, which have been mainlining left-of-center indoctrination for years.
“It is no wonder there is woke ideology and indoctrination seeping into our classrooms,” Weaver said, citing the trickle-down effect of higher education policies.
Kizzi Staley Gibson of Lexington, S.C. said she did not believe CRT was expressly being taught in the Palmetto State, but that schools were “framing what they are teaching through the lens of CRT.”
(Click to view)
(Via: Will Folks/ FITSNews)
Gibson (above), incidentally, was the first candidate to announce for this seat – declaring her candidacy last summer when liberal incumbent Molly Spearman was still planning on campaigning. Spearman later reversed course and announced she would not seek a third term in office in 2022.
On the issue of CRT, Greenville, S.C. school board member Lynda Leventis-Wells pointed out – correctly – that state lawmakers have already banned it from being taught (at least temporarily). According to a proviso (1.105) inserted into the fiscal year 2021-2022 state budget, government-run schools in the Palmetto State are currently enjoined from teaching “partisanship curricula” which holds that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that “an individual, by virtue of his race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive,” among other restrictions.
Leventis-Wells said she wanted to see this proviso enforced.
“Our teachers need to be put on probation – then a fine, and then a suspension (for teaching CRT),” she said.
CRT obviously wasn’t the only hot-button issue discussed at the debate – which featured four of the six “Republican” challengers for this open seat. In addition to Weaver, Gibson and Leventis-Wells, Lexington, S.C. town councilwoman Kathy Maness also participated in the forum.
GOP candidates Bryan Chapman and Travis Bedson did not attend – although Bedson’s name was on the tip of several tongues at the event as news began to leak about his prior arrest record.
According to records obtained by this news outlet, Bedson was arrested on a grand larceny charge in 2015 and a pair of assault and battery charges (one in 2015 and another in 2016). He also has a drug arrest from 2008 on his record. All of these arrests took place in Charleston County.
The disposition of the charges against Bedson is not immediately clear, although none of them currently appear on the S.C. ninth judicial circuit’s public index – suggesting they may have been expunged.
Bedson loaned his campaign $250,000 two weeks ago, potentially making him a major player in the upcoming race.
Getting back to the issues addressed during the debate, one of the topics near and dear to the heart of FITSNews readers is education funding – which has expanded exponentially in recent years without much in the way of improved outcomes in Palmetto State classrooms.
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(Via: Will Folks/ FITSNews)
“We are not under-funding education in South Carolina – we are mis-funding education,” Weaver said. “The problem is not money, the problem is how we are spending money.”
“I do not feel education in South Carolina is under-funded,” she said. “But I do feel we can create ways to better spend that money.”
Maness declined to address whether education funding in South Carolina was adequate, only that it should be better dispersed within the current structure.
“We need to get more money in our classrooms,” Maness said. “We’ve got too many administrators in these schools. Let’s put our money where it really matters – which is in the classroom with our students.”
The candidates also offered competing visions of school choice – another issue near and dear to the hearts of FITSNews readers.
“I am a dedicated and unapologetic supporter of every form of school choice,” Weaver said, adding that she supported expanding funding for transportation within the choice framework because “choice without transportation funding is not choice.”
Gibson also touted her support for broader-based, more universal visions of parental choice.
“Every child deserves to learn in the environment that best fits them,” Gibson said. “As a parent, we should have the choice to send them anywhere we like.”
Maness offered a more limited version of parental choice, saying she supported “choice for all that is affordable and accountable for all.” She quickly pivoted to her support for public charter schools – and other choices within the government-run system.
“I believe we need to expand public school choice for all,” Maness said.
As I have often said, though, choice within the taxpayer-funded system isn’t true choice … true choice means embracing the accountability that can only be provided by the marketplace.
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Whoever wins the GOP nomination for this office will have the inside track on victory next November – as Democrats have not won a statewide office in the Palmetto State since 2006. That’s the year former superintendent Jim Rex beat ex-SCGOP chairwoman Karen Floyd by just 455 votes (out of more than a million ballots cast).
In anticipation of the general election, questions were raised as to whether two of the candidates – including Weaver – would be eligible to hold office due to the fact she does not currently hold a master’s degree, one of the requirements for the position.
In response to the controversy, Weaver said she would be “fully qualified to hold this office on day one.”
Maness (below) disputed that contention, though, suggesting that nominating a Republican who did not meet the ballot qualifications could result in the office being gift-wrapped to “a Democrat.”
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(Via: FITSNews/ Will Folks)
“If one of the two candidates who do not meet the qualifications were to win our primary, I am concerned that our Republican candidate may be disqualified and this office could go to a Democrat,” Maness said. “All Republicans should be concerned about that.”
Weaver was having none of it …
“The plain reading of the law is clear – I will have my masters degree before the general election,” she said.
“When someone can’t win on policy they resort to process,” Weaver added. “I believe in the rule of law and will fully comply with all the requirements for this position.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. Oh, and unlike some leaders in the S.C. General Assembly, he knows how to tie a Windsor knot.
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