UPDATE: Spoke briefly today with Ted Pitts, who said the governor’s proposal was attached to the relevant press release on the governor’s website. Which seems rather obvious, now that he points it out…
Someone complained, sort of, that I didn’t comment on Nikki Haley’s education proposal yesterday. Sorry. I wasn’t sure I knew enough about it, based on the news stories. (I sort of had the same reaction a bunch of lawmakers did. I wanted to know more.)
But now I have a little more confidence than I did in saying this: It looks really good. It addresses one of the most serious problems in SC public education, and does so in a way that I think is politically courageous for a Tea Party Republican.
If you doubt it, look no further than the lame response from Democrats. Vincent Sheheen said essentially, Hey, I’ve had a lot of good education proposals way before Nikki did. Todd Rutherford said, Yeah, but how come we had to wait four years for her to pay attention to education? The state party said pretty much what Rutherford did.
If it looks good to me, and even those with a huge motivation to find fault with it can’t find anything to criticize, it must be pretty good, right?
Here’s why it’s good: The public education problem in South Carolina is, to oversimplify a bit, a rural poverty problem. Normally, what you hear from Republicans of a certain stripe is, “Look at those awful standardized test scores (really, they mean the SAT, because we don’t look all that bad on other measures); they prove that public education is a failure.”
But the truth is, we do know how to do public education in affluent suburbs, where there are sufficient resources and kids come to school ready to learn. Not so much in poorer parts of the state.
One of the nagging problems is that kids who start at the back of the pack and who don’t have a lot of help and support at home are harder to educate. And yes, that can mean “more expensive to educate.” They need more highly skilled teachers — not just those who couldn’t get a job in the ‘burbs — and more support services to catch up.
So, how do you get a state where the real political power resides in the suburbs (in those white districts that vote Republican) to go for a plan that sends more of their tax money to the poor, rural areas?
Well, somebody has to exert some leadership to make it happen.
Which is what the governor is proposing to do here. Good for her, and I certainly hope she succeeds.