July 10, 2014

State education superintendent will not seek re-election

S.C. Education Superintendent Mick Zais has announced he will not seek re-election next year.

File Photo

Education Superintendent Mick Zais (FILE)

“This was a very difficult decision. I was preparing for, and looking forward to, a re-election campaign,” the Republican posted to his campaign website Friday. “I’m confident I would have run a strong campaign and would have been re-elected.”

Zais was elected to the office in 2010. He has since made a priority expanding types of schools, especially charter schools, in South Carolina. He also pushed for a pilot program that would evaluate teachers partially based on student performance. While he gave vocal support to tax credits and vouchers for low-income students to attend private schools, Zais usually deferred to others on that issue.

“There remains much work left to be done,” Zais said in his statement. “But the whole conversation about education in South Carolina has changed since I entered office.  Then, most were defending the current system, fighting to maintain the status quo.  Today, nearly everyone recognizes that the one-size-fits-all system just doesn’t work for far too many students.”

South Carolina has seen slight improvements in student test scores under Zais. His office says the state’s ACT scores are the highest ever, while the on-time graduation rate (77.5%) is the highest since 2004. However, Zais was often criticized for his efforts to base teachers’ pay partially on student performance and for refusing to accpet millions of dollars in federal grants that he worried had strings attached.

He previously served as president of Newberry College after 31 years in the military.

The announcement will likely spur the 2014 race for education superintendent. It’s the sole statewide office S.C. Democrats have been able to consistently win over the past 12 years and Zais was already seen as vulnerable in the slot. State Rep. Mike Anthony, D-Union, a former high school teacher and football coach, is running for the position. State Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head, a security consultant who leads a crucial House education subcommittee, has also expressed interest in entering the race.

An Education Department spokesman said Zais would not be taking questions on Friday.