Changing elected state superintendent doesn't make sense
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

NOV. 2, 2003 - The "in" thing in Columbia these days is restructuring. But moving around executive deck chairs on the Titanic may bring the kinds of real differences some seem to want.

Specifically, the state may not experience fundamental, real change by moving away from an elected state superintendent of education. Several lawmakers have proposed making everyone from the state treasurer and comptroller general to the adjutant general and agriculture commissioner to become appointed positions who serve under the governor.

But the office of the state superintendent, currently held by a Democrat, seems to be getting the most scrutiny by those in power, Republicans. While their efforts may be bona fide, they're starting to look a little partisan.

Just this week, bombastic GOP state Rep. John Graham Altman III, who serves as a good barometer for using legislation to push partisan positions, fired off a harangue over the state superintendent. He said he would file a bill that would strip the superintendent of most powers.

"There are some people out there who think all we need to do is raise taxes and give more money to educrats who drove the car in the ditch," Altman told The Post and Courier. "I want to give that power to the governor's office and give the people the chance to elect a governor on the No. 1 issue in the state."



McLEMORE'S WORLD: The man in the uniform

FEEDBACK: Manufacturing woes


We encourage your feedback. If you'd like to respond to something in SC Statehouse Report, please send us an e-mail. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. One submission allowed per month. Please keep your comment to 250 words or less:

Recent feedback

Huh? Taking away the people's direct vote for state superintendent would make the officeholder more accountable? That doesn't make sense.

Richard Miller, executive director of the S.C. Education Association, said he believed making the superintendent become a position that answered to the governor would impede progress.

"I'm concerned about an appointed position," he said. "It [could] become the extension of a politician - - a governor or somebody else - - and is not as objective of a voice for the needs of the people," he said.

With an elected superintendent, people know the official is directly accountable to them. If they don't like the job the superintendent is doing, voters can throw him or her out.

"It's the one direct way beyond the local school board that local people continue to have some say-so about education politics and practices in the state," Miller said.

There's an additional concern. If the state is doing better in education, as it is these days, it doesn't make much sense to throw out the leadership model that caused the state to be leading the country in state achievement and improving teacher quality. It doesn't make sense to throw away the elected position at a time when the state has the highest average increase in SAT scores in the country.

In other words, if the structure of an elected superintendent ain't broke, why fix it?

Interestingly, the current state superintendent doesn't have strong feelings one way or the other about changing the power structure in education.

Inez Tenenbaum, who is running for U.S. Senate, said she's seen good elected and appointed state superintendents - - and bad ones of each category too.

An advantage of keeping the system the same is the elected superintendent has the freedom to pursue an education agenda that voters agreed with at the polls, she said. An advantage of the appointed structure is that it would make the governor accountable, even though he is not necessarily elected only because of education.

"There's not a perfect way," Tenenbaum said. "I say let the people decide - - put it on the ballot."

And that just might be the best way for the whole mess to be decided - - and keep it out of the hands of politicians (and columnists).

The man in the uniform

This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:

10/27: Keep the focus on manufacturing

To the editor:

Many, many thanks for your article in this Sunday's newspaper regarding the apparent lack of focus on maintaining or recruiting manufacturing jobs for South Carolina...[In the Pee Dee] we are about to begin investing $34 million in developing a training facility that will sustain advanced manufacturing techniques and processes and provide the training that will attract economic development clients that want to continue a manufacturing presence in the U.S. and want to be located close to a facility totally devoted to sustaining their workforce needs.

As I listen to the Palmetto group talk about endowed chairs and all of the manufacturing that will flow to the state once we become a research hub, I am a little mystified when I look at the folks being laid off and the ones just coming into the workforce. I am a bit dismayed that anyone would say that protecting local manufacturing jobs can't be the state's top business priority. The present state of manufacturing is analogous to the state of agriculture in the sixties. Huge changes are occurring but the key is to roll with the changes that are occurring in manufacturing and provide an environment that will be attractive to the new role manufacturing will play in our economy.

In spite of the apparent lack of interest in this endeavor, we are not giving. up. Jim Morris is exactly right, we can not walk away from the history of manufacturing support we have built in this state....There are manufacturers [in Switzerland and Germany] who are very interested in having a U.S. presence. They use high tech processes and employ fewer people than previously, but they employ. The key for us is to realize that this is a new era in manufacturing and we may have seen the passing of the large manufacturing entities that employed large numbers of people only to be supplanted by an increasing number of smaller manufacturers who employ fewer but highly technically trained individuals. I hope you will write more on this topic. Every little bit helps.

-- Name withheld by request, Florence, S.C.



Learn more about Statehouse Report

Copyright 2003, S.C. Statehouse Report, a media project of
The Brack Group, Charleston, S.C.
Retransmission or reproduction of more than one copy is prohibited without express permission of the publisher. For additional information, including subscription prices, go to