by Paul Bowers
Rep. Mike Anthony, an Upstate Democrat who plans to run against incumbent Republican State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais in 2014, is speaking out against Zais' plan to deregulate public schools.
As reported yesterday, the Zais-led Department of Education is pushing a proposal that would eliminate statewide regulations on student-to-teacher ratios, teacher workloads, and hiring thresholds for employees including assistant principals and guidance counselors. DOE officials say it's about providing "flexibility" for school districts, while some opponents say it's a plot to dismantle South Carolina public education.
Anthony, who currently serves as a state representative from Union, issued the following statement today:
In my four decades in the classroom, I never heard a teacher, parent, or student suggest that the way we improve our schools is by increasing class sizes and workloads on our teachers. This plan is not only misguided — it's downright dangerous. I'll do everything I can as a state representative, retired teacher, and candidate for Superintendent of Education to stop this plan from ever being implemented. I'm all for giving districts more flexibility and cutting unnecessary bureaucracy and government red tape, but this plan could lead us down a very dangerous road. This is a direct consequence of the lack of communication between General Zais and teachers and education leaders across our state. Dr. Zais proposed this plan without any buy-in from teachers or the people on the front lines of education in South Carolina. I believe for South Carolina public schools to move forward we must have new leadership at the Department of Education. If the current administration actually listened and valued the opinion of our teachers, Dr. Zais would have never proposed this disastrous plan. We can and must do better for the children of South Carolina.
When the City Paper contacted Zais' office for comment today, a Department of Education employee said the superintendent stands by the explanation given in Thursday's story. Staff also forwarded us a letter that Zais sent to district superintendents in September explaining his vision for flexibility. In it, he writes, "From the beginning, providing school districts, schools, and teachers more flexibility has been a cornerstone of my vision to transform education."