by Paul Bowers
A proposal from State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais to deregulate classroom sizes and hiring ratios in public schools appears to have little support on the State Board of Education, which will vote on whether to pass the proposal to the legislature on Nov. 13.
The Board passed a first reading of the proposal with little discussion or fanfare at a meeting on Sept. 11. At the time, only two of the 17 board members, Raye O'Neal Boyd and Traci Young Cooper, voted against it, while board Chairman David Blackmon asked the board to "move cautiously on this and not act on it in second reading until we get additional information."
Now, after fielding a barrage of phone calls and e-mails from constituents who were upset by the plan after finding out about it in early October, even board members who had initially been open to the idea say they now see little chance of it passing in November. Members of the legislature-appointed board discussed the proposal at a meeting this Wednesday.
"I don't think there's probably more than two or three votes that would be in favor of it," says Larry Kobrovsky, who represents Berkeley and Charleston counties on the board. Kobrovsky has not decided which way he will vote in November, saying he is "open to listen to the arguments" from both sides.
One likely supporter of the ordinance is David Longshore, a former teacher, principal, and superintendent from Orangeburg. "I've got mixed feelings about it, but right now I'm leaning toward supporting it because I think that the flexibility for school districts would be good," Longshore says. He says he thinks classroom sizes are currently too big, but he says his support of the deregulation measure "is in no way an indication that I support enlarging class sizes."
Longshore echoes Kobrovsky's assessment, though: There's not much support for the proposed ordinance on the board anymore. "My sense is from talking to various board members that the majority of the board members are probably going to vote no on this," Longshore says.
Here's a video of the discussion at the Sept. 11 meeting, courtesy of Rock Hill School District 3 board member Ginny Moe: