State Rep. Patrick running for state schools superintendent + audio

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 15, 2014 

Andy Patrick

After two terms in the S.C. House of Representatives and a failed run for Congress, state Rep. Andy Patrick hopes to be South Carolina's next superintendent of education.

The Hilton Head Republican announced his candidacy Wednesday and said he has three top priorities: put effective teachers in the classroom, make sure all children read at grade level and re-establish S.C. Department of Education support for local school districts.

"I think there is a huge disconnect between the school districts throughout the state and the state Department of Education," Patrick said. "We don't have an education system in South Carolina that is meeting the needs of the 21st century."

Patrick throws his hat in the ring with three other candidates. Current state schools' chief Mick Zais has said he will not seek re-election in November.

Two Democrats have announced bids -- state Rep. Mike Anthony of Union, a retired athletics director and educator, and Montrio Belton of Fort Mill, a former educator and administrator who worked under Zais.

Another Republican, school teacher and administrator Gary Burgess of Pendleton, has also said he will run.

State Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, said Wednesday that she is still undecided about whether she will run. Erickson is a former teacher and oversees an early-childhood center.

Patrick does not have a traditional education background in education; he is a security consultant, a former U.S. Secret Service agent and a military veteran.

He said he was inspired to run because of his five children, four of whom are in S.C. public schools, and a desire to make sure they have the best educational opportunities possible. When asked his family's views on his decision, Patrick said his children were excited and that he and his wife of 15 years had separated.

"This is not something I have gone into lightly or not having taken into consideration what my background is," Patrick said. "I know why it might not appear on the surface to speak out 'state superintendent of education,' but it's about leadership and about education policy."

Patrick is chairman of the K-12 Education Subcommittee in the House and serves on the Education Oversight Committee. He recently introduced legislation that would partly base teacher evaluations and compensation on student achievement.

Last year in the House, Patrick introduced the Read to Succeed Act that would require struggling third-graders be held back for a year to help them read at grade level. The bill's companion in the Senate has been gaining traction, he said.

Patrick said it is crucial for the state superintendent to include educators in conversations about policies that would directly affect them.

"I think what makes me qualified is ... my demonstrated ability to sit down with people, listen and consider their perspectives and try to incorporate those into policy," he said. "I have had some success with that and, at the same time, not as much success as I would like, and I learn from that."

Patrick has sought higher office before. He finished fifth out of 16 Republican primary candidates seeking the 1st Congressional District seat in March. Former Gov. Mark Sanford won the post, vacated when Tim Scott was appointed to the U.S. Senate.

With his decision to run for state superintendent, Patrick will not be able to seek re-election to his House seat, also up for election this fall.

Audio: Patrick announces candidacy for SC schools superintendent (1:58)

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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