South Carolina

SC politics: Race for education superintendent flares

Race for education superintendent flares

Two former Republican candidates took sides Friday in the GOP runoff for state superintendent of education.

Both said initially they planned to remain neutral in the runoff between Sally Atwater of Charleston and Molly Spearman of Saluda.

But Amy Cofield of Lexington, a lawyer and former teacher, said she would back Atwater. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Moffly of Charleston, who has run for superintendent three times, declared her support for Spearman.

Moffly said Atwater’s supporters have accused Spearman of being a Democrat, adding those tactics were similar to those used against Republican President Ronald Reagan, also a former Democrat.

Spearman was elected as a Democrat to the S.C. House in 1992 but switched to the Republican Party in 1995.

Meanwhile, Cofield said Atwater would make a strong superintendent.

“Sally is a strong Republican, someone who will not stop until Common Core standards are a thing of the past,” Cofield said in a news release issued by Atwater’s campaign.

Later Friday, third-place finisher Sheri Few of Lugoff called on Atwater to drop out of the race so that she could run against Spearman.

Few, head of S.C. Parents Involved in Education, finished about three percentage points behind Atwater and Spearman in Tuesday’s primary. Few criticized a radio appearance Atwater made, calling it “an embarrassment” and saying Atwater is unprepared for the job.

“If Sally Atwater is not going to run a credible campaign against Molly Spearman, then she needs to step aside and let me give Republicans a clear choice on June 24,” Few said.

Republican Party chairman Matt Moore called Few a “sore loser.”

“This was a close race for first place, not second,” Moore said. “Sore losers shouldn’t make themselves the center of attention – it damages our electoral process. Voters have spoken. Ballots are set, and we should let the voters decide.”

Sheheen calls for state investigation of the VA

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Vincent Sheheen wants South Carolina to have the power to investigate its Veteran Affairs facilities over the ongoing crisis concerning waiting times for appointments.

Sheheen sent a letter to President Barack Obama Friday asking him to grant South Carolina’s inspector general the ability to look into reports that VA officials have manipulated numbers on long waiting times He also endorsed letting veterans use federal-funded vouchers to go elsewhere for treatment within three weeks of an appointment.

Sheheen of Camden criticized his opponent, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of Lexington, for not requesting the authority to review the VA.

State GOP chairman Matt Moore said South Carolina is well-represented in Washington by Republican congressmen who have been taking action to solve the VA crisis. He dismissed Sheheen’s letter as partisan.

U.S. education secretary criticizes S.C. standards

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says South Carolina is setting the bar too low for students under the state’s decision to replace Common Core education standards with a local version of them.

Duncan told a conference in North Charleston on Thursday that the decision to drop out of the Common Core standards is politicizing education, The (Charleston) Post and Courier reported.

“Historically South Carolina has set a low bar. That’s not something anyone should be proud of,” he said.

Common Core standards have been criticized as an attempt to nationalize education. The standards spell out what students in all grades should be learning in reading and math.

Several hundred teachers, principals and school administrators took part in a live Internet chat with Duncan.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill last month that requires a yet-to-be-created state panel to begin reviewing Common Core standards by January. Any changes, which must be approved by the state Board of Education and the independent Education Oversight Committee, must be implemented by the 2015-2016 school year.

State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, an outspoken critic of Common Core, disagrees South Carolina has set low standards.

“I believe you should have high standards and you should have high expectations, but what the federal secretary fails to realize is that education is a state responsibility not a federal responsibility,” Grooms said Thursday. “A one-size-fits-all policy will bring ruin to this country.

Cassie Cope, The Associated Press