Candidates debate future of SC education

By Laura Thomas - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Two candidates hoping to lead South Carolina's education system brought their efforts to the Grand Strand.

The Democratic and Republican candidates for the State Superintendent of Education squared off in a debate Thursday in Myrtle Beach hosted by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators.

Democratic nominee Frank Holleman is an attorney from Greenville. Republican nominee Mick Zais is the retiring president of Newberry College.

Each candidate says he is the most qualified for the position.

"I've been involved in every level of public education in South Carolina," Holleman said.

"I believe that I'm uniquely qualified for this position based on my experience and education as a classroom teacher," Zais explained.

These two candidates faced a tough crowd with a room full of educators watching as the debate unfolded.

However, as these candidates look to the future of the school systems, their decisions are made even more difficult by a shrinking budget.

In the Carolina Forest area, many schools are facing overcrowding issues, with some students learning in portable classrooms.

Parents like Renee Bittner say she is pleased with the district, but would also like to see school buildings added to help with the growing Carolina Forest area.

"I would like to see them build more schools in the district," Bittner said.  "Because I do think we're in dire straits for new schools."

Both Zais and Holleman say they have different ideas on how to handle the overcrowding.

Holleman says his fix for the overcrowding is to plan ahead for funding and to build those schools before it becomes an even bigger issue.

"If you have stable and adequate funding, your district can plan in advance," Holleman said.  "It can work with the planning department, and your local county and it can decide where best to place schools to anticipate the issues of growth."

Zais suggests more schools could be built if costs were cut by using pre-made design plans for schools.

"We can build more schools if we don't start with a blank sheet of paper but have standard blueprints that can be modified, we can be a lot more efficient in building schools at a lot less cost," Zais said.

Whoever is elected state superintendent will have to make the tough decisions about issues like these in South Carolina.  Winning over these educators, and parents is just the first step.

The candidates will now hit the campaign trail until it is time for the general election in November.

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