MANESS VS. WEAVER: Republican state superintendent of education candidates face runoff for party nomination

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Last week’s Republican primary for state superintendent of education did not result in any candidate receiving a majority of the votes.

Instead, two candidates will face off in a runoff election next week, Kathy Maness and Ellen Weaver.

“As the next state superintendent of education, I want to make sure that every student that graduates from our public schools is ready for the 3 E’s: employment, enrollment or enlistment. We have to get them ready for what’s next for them,” Maness said.

Maness received 31 percent of the vote in last week’s Republican primary.

If elected, she hopes to address learning loss and discipline issues in the classroom but says that starts with smaller class sizes and filling the state’s many teacher vacancies.

“We must recruit and retain teachers. We are in a teacher shortage crisis in South Carolina,” Maness said. “We must make sure that every classroom has a qualified, quality teacher so that our students can learn.”

To bring more teacher’s into the profession, Maness says their jobs must be made more manageable.

“We have to increase teacher pay in South Carolina, but that’s not everything,” the former Lancaster School District educator said. “Our teachers are drowning in the amount of paperwork they have to do. We need less paperwork, less testing and we have to restore discipline in our schools so our teachers can teach and students can learn.”

Maness adds that the teacher shortage is not the only thing in the South Carolina education system that needs to be fixed.

“I’ve traveled to every school district in the state of South Carolina,” Maness said. “There are schools that really, really need to be improved. I’ve testified before the general assembly and said ‘There are schools in South Carolina that I wouldn’t let my three children go to.’ If they’re not good enough for my children, they’re not good enough for my children, they’re not good enough for any child in South Carolina. We have to do better.”

Current state superintendent Molly Spearman has worked towards improving school facilities and endorses Maness for the job.

Maness believes she is the most qualified candidate for the position and plans to improve school safety as well as the facilities.

“Right after I’m sworn in to this office, I’m going to bring together police chiefs and sheriffs from all over South Carolina, the large cities and the small cities,” Maness said. “We have to talk about what we have to do to keep our students, teachers and every staff person safe.”

Early voting has already begun and the winner will face off against Democrat Lisa Ellis in November.

“We’ve been doing the same things in South Carolina education over and over and over again for decades now. We know it’s not working,” said Maness’ opponent, Ellen Weaver.

Weaver says she would be a fresh change as South Carolina superintendent of education. Former state superintendent Mick Zais as well as Senator Tim Scott have endorsed her for the position.

“The senator’s story is really emblematic of what we’re fighting for in education. His story of escaping poverty through the power of a great education is why I’m in this fight in the first place, ”Weaver said. “We have far too many kids in South Carolina that we’re leaving behind.”

The test scores on last year’s state education report card was proof of that.

“We’re in an education crisis in South Carolina. Two-thirds of our students are not reading and doing math at grade level. It starts with a strong focus on literacy in the early grades. We’ve got to get back to teaching phonics, the science of reading, that works. We also have to think about strategies to help the students who have fallen behind during COVID.”

Weaver adds that to help students and the education system as a whole, she plans to listen to the concerns of parents and teachers. It begins with retaining and recruiting quality teachers.

“We’ve made great progress in improving teacher’s salaries over the last few years. We’ve gotten to the southeastern average. I’d like to see us get to the national average in the next five years,” Weaver said. “We know that supporting teachers is not just about money but respect. We have got to restore discipline in our classrooms. That means empowering administrators to have our teacher’s backs.”

In addition to helping those inside the schools, Weaver says work needs to be done on the current school buildings as well.

“We’ve got to look at our critical infrastructure needs. Like so much in South Carolina education, it’s not about the fact that we’re not spending enough money. It’s about how we’re prioritizing the money that we’re currently spending,” the Bob Jones University graduate said.

Weaver’s opponents have mentioned her lack of a master’s degree as a reason why she is less qualified for the position. She is currently obtaining that degree and says it shows voters how hard she is willing to work.

“I want people in the state to know that my level of commitment to this job knows no bounds. Getting this master’s degree is just one more token of that commitment,” Weaver concluded.

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