April 23, 2014

Gov. Haley defends colleges in “gay lit” dispute

Haley and Hall

Gov. Haley and Hall

Governor Nikki Haley today shared her opinion of state lawmakers punishing public colleges for course content they find offensive.

“There are boards of colleges for a reason. We allow the boards and we allow the presidents make those decisions,” Gov. Haley said. ”I have never micromanaged how any college or university does anything.”

State Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, and State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville support targeted funding in the state budget for the College of Charleston and USC-Upstate for using gay-themed literature and plays.

Fair said a satirical performance entitled, “How To Be A Lesbian In 10 Days Or Less,” presented by USC Upstate was “recruiting lesbians.”

The Upstate school backed down. The College of Charleston has not, but the political move has had a chilling effect on the new course offerings.

South Carolina Radio Network asked Haley if she felt it was appropriate to penalize colleges for what they decide to offer their students.

“That’s a board decision, it’s not a state decision,” Haley said. “So when it comes to things of higher ed, that’s the reason we have a board. That’s the reason we have a president. That’s the reason we should let them make the decisions that are in the best interests of their students.”

Haley addressed this question at an event to award the Governor’s Professor of the Year for 2014. She honored Dr. Milind Kunchur, professor of physics at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and Christopher Hall, criminal justice instructor at Central Carolina Technical College in Sumter.

Haley’s father was once a biology professor at Voorhees College in Bamberg County.

Hall told South Carolina Radio Network that the lawmakers’ action trouble him too. “I think we’ll end up slanting education. We’ll end up teaching one side of the issue and not the other, depending on which group or party is in power.”

“Often in my classroom, I find out what side of an issue a student is on and make them on purpose take the other side so that they can see the merits of both sides of a problem or issue,” Hall said.

Dabo Swinney responds to critics of his use of faith in Clemson football

Today,  Clemson University head football Coach Dabo Swinney responded to national and state criticism of his use of  Christian teaching and practices in his program.  The national Freedom from Religion Foundation says the public university using this approach violates separation of church and state. Read previous article.

 Date:  April 23, 2014

Over the past week or two, there has been a lot of discussion of my faith.  We have three rules in our program that everybody must follow: (1) players must go to class, (2) they must give a good effort and (3) they must be good citizens. It is as simple as that.

I have recruited and coached players of many different faiths. Players of any faith or no faith at all are welcome in our program. All we require in the recruitment of any player is that he must be a great player at his position, meet the academic requirements, and have good character.

Recruiting is very personal. Recruits and their families want – and deserve – to know who you are as a person, not just what kind of coach you are. I try to be a good example to others, and I work hard to live my life according to my faith. I am proud of the great success we have had in developing good players and good men at Clemson. We win at the highest level and we graduate players who excel on the field and in life because of their time in Death Valley. I want to thank Clemson University and all the people who have reached out to offer their support and encouragement over the past few weeks.

Statement from Clemson University Head Football Coach Dabo Swinney

Creation of brewing degree picking up steam

It has been less than a week since Horry-Georgetown Technical College announced that it will be offering a degree in brewing in Fall 2015 in what would become the first college degree of its kind offered in South Carolina.

The school’s executive vice president for academic affairs Marilyn Fore says she has received nothing but positive reactions from colleagues and friends in academia, area businesses, and citizens. Fore says developing a curriculum of study that will lead to an associate degree in brewing, distillation, and fermentation will be an interesting endeavor.

Just in case any parents are worried, students must be the legal drinking age of 21 before they can take their first core brewing class.

Fore says she doesn’t foresee any problems with getting the program approved. Fore says her early research into putting together a faculty for the brewing classes indicates that she will be looking for individuals with some very unique qualifications.

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SC Senate to consider role of seniority in teacher layoffs

How important should teacher seniority be? A state Senate bill questions keeping teachers in their jobs partly because they have been teaching longer than others. The group known as StudentsFirst helped Charleston Senator Paul Thurmond write the original bill. The organization was created by former Washington, D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee and pushes for teacher improvement in all states.


Rhee spoke to a SC legislative panel earlier this year,

The Senate Education Committee amended Thurmond’s bill to allow seniority to be a lesser factor, but leaves it on the list. Thurmond says that waters down his intent with the bill:

“The overall interest of really having these types of decisions made on merit and ability rather than seniority is alive and well,” Thurmond told South Carolina Radio Network. “At the end of the day, we are moving the bill forward.”

The teachers advocacy group, the South Carolina Education Association, says districts have already agreed on standards for layoffs. Read previous story.

Lane Wright of the South Carolina team of StudentsFirst says there are suggested guidelines for districts and nothing more.

“The law is silent in South Carolina on this issue and so we feel like good teachers are being threatened any time there is a reduction in student enrollment or budget cuts and staff has to be reduced. Great teachers are at risk,” said Wright

The bill says beginning in the 2016-17 school year, district layoff decisions must first consider teacher effectiveness.

The South Carolina Education Association’s argues that it takes away local control. Wright of Students First said the state sometimes has the last say:

“Nobody is up-in-arms over the requirement that there’s time for the Pledge of Allegiance, or the number of school days in each district is set by the state,” he said. “There is a number of things that the state sets and that everybody is comfortable with because it makes the most sense for students.”

The bill says that other factors besides seniority must be considered in a layoff situation, but teacher compensation may not be a consideration.

The bill’s sponsors expect a fight on the Senate floor.


Confusion among schools as SC withdraws from next-generation tests

The decision by South Carolina’s schools chief to withdraw from a consortium that crafted the next generation of student testing gives the state little time to find a replacement. Meanwhile, school districts say they are moving ahead but are getting little guidance on what to do next.

Education Superintendent Mick Zais surprised many when he announced South Carolina was withdrawing from the new tests (File)

Education Superintendent Mick Zais surprised many when he announced South Carolina was withdrawing from the new tests (File)

“There’s just been very little communication with districts,” South Carolina School Boards Association spokeswoman Debbie Elmore said. “To be quite honest, districts are just proceeding and doing what they’ve always done. But there’s a lot of questions.”

Earlier this month, state Education Superintendent Mick Zais informed districts that he was withdrawing the state from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a multistate group that drafted new tests for Common Core standards that begin in the 2014-15 school year. The tests are unpopular with some parents, politicians, and even a few educators who are concerned its radically-different methods will result in lower test scores.

Zais’ move came after the South Carolina House of Representatives voted 89-9 on April 10 to effectively block the Smarter Balanced tests. The superintendent, who opposes Common Core, told school districts to suspend the tests in anticipation that the Senate would later vote the same way. But the unilateral move shocked the state Board of Education, which had voted just the previous week to stick with the tests.

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