MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - When you head to the polls Tuesday for the midterm election, every South Carolina voter will see Amendment 1 listed on the ballot, and it could change how the state superintendent of education gets their job.
Voters will have the option to vote “yes” or “no” on whether the superintendent of education should be appointed by the governor rather than elected by the people, which is how it stands now.
Amendment 1 reads:
“Must Section 7, Article VI of the Constitution of this State, relating to state constitutional officers, be amended so as to provide that beginning in January 2023, or upon a vacancy in the office of Superintendent of Education after the date of the ratification of the provisions of this paragraph, whichever occurs first, the Superintendent of Education must be appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate; to provide that the appointed Superintendent of Education shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor; and to require the General Assembly to provide by law for the duties, compensation, and qualifications for the office?”
The South Carolina Department of Education oversees the policies of public schools across the state, under the direction of the superintendent.
Holley Tankersley, WMBF News' political expert, said voters who think the governor needs more power in education will likely vote “yes” to the amendment.
“Being able to have that appointment gives them the ability to kind of take control of that area a little bit more because they’d be able to pick a person that presumably matches their opinion and their policy preferences on education," Tankersley explained.
She also said she predicts many educators and administrators in public schools will vote “no” to the amendment because they want to ensure the person in office is qualified for the position.
“I think you’ll find that a lot of teachers in the state and a lot of principals and administrators, people who are involved with the school system, they want somebody in that position who understands their daily reality," Tankersley said. "So if you’re in public education, you want to see somebody who knows first hand what you’re facing every day in that position.”
The president of the South Carolina Education Association, Sherry East, echoed these concerns.
“You could get a person with an MBA trying to run a school system that’s never been in a classroom if you allow it to be appointed,” East said. "We feel like you need someone who has been a teacher, who has been an administrator in that role. We feel like we have a better chance of getting that person by electing them. "
East said this opinion comes after a poll revealed 98 percent of South Carolina Education Association members said they want to keep the superintendent of education an elected position. East says educators from every district in South Carolina are represented in the SCEA.
State representative and gubernatorial Democratic challenger James Smith said he also opposes the amendment, but he claims to have a plan if the measure passes when he’s in office.
“I’m going to appoint somebody who’s got the experience and is going to do a great job,” Smith said at an event in Darlington County last month. “I’m also going to turn, assuming that’s in place, I’m going to turn and immediately begin changing that law.”
Smith says he wants future governors to be required to appoint someone with at least ten years of experience in public education.
Proponents of the amendment include Gov. Henry McMaster, former Gov. Nikki Haley and current State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, who’s running unopposed Tuesday.
Last month, Spearman visited Myrtle Beach with South Carolina Chamber of Commerce leaders to push voters to say “yes” to Amendment 1.
“I’m voting ‘yes’ on Amendment 1,” Spearman said during the Oct. 26 appearance. “I’m asking my fellow educators and citizens of South Carolina to join us on this needed change to build a stronger voice for public education in South Carolina.”
Spearman said she believes the superintendent and governor need to be on the same page for the state’s education system to move forward.
“The current structure of divided leadership can result in split priorities, a lack of concentrated coordination, and fragmented accountability,” she said in a press release.
According to Spearman, the appointment process would allow the opportunity for the state to set qualifications including a master’s degree in education or business and along with a substantial experience in education or operational and financial management.
Currently, the position only needs to be older than 18-years-old and registered to vote.