by Paul Bowers
EdFirstSC, an education advocacy group founded by a Charleston County School District teacher, issued a press release Monday calling for State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais to withdraw a controversial proposal that would eliminate classroom size caps, mandatory staffing ratios, and limits on teacher workloads, among other statewide regulations of public schools.
"An immediate withdrawal would allow educators the peace of mind to focus on serving students, rather than engaging in yet another protracted battle with their state superintendent over a policy that was developed without their input," EdFirstSC founder Patrick Hayes wrote in an e-mail. Hayes has been rallying teachers and other supporters around the state to contact the Department of Education and the State Board of Education with their concerns about the proposal, which will come up for board approval on Nov. 13.
The organization also called on Zais to stay out of the 2014 race for state superintendent. While filing has not yet begun for that race, Zais has said he intends to run for re-election, and state Rep. Mike Anthony (D-Union) has announced his intent to run against Zais. "Dr. Zais speaks often on the importance of choice. Voters deserve choices, too," Hayes wrote in the e-mail. "The Republican Party deserves time to find a candidate whose values and judgments are in line with South Carolina voters, who by and large support public schools and the people who serve them."
When the City Paper called Zais' office for a response, Dino Teppara, the Department of Education's new director of legislative and public affairs, offered the following statement:
"Dr. Zais remains committed to continuing the discussion on school flexibility that has already been the law in South Carolina since 2009. As for his candidacy for office, he has said he'll run again, but will remain focused on the job at hand of being an advocate for increased student learning and leaving politics for the appropriate time."