A proposal that would have the governor appoint South Carolina’s schools chief instead of electing her has reached the state Senate floor.
The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday unanimously advanced a proposed constitutional amendment to make the Education Superintendent an appointed position. If passed by both the Senate and House, the question would go to voters in a referendum next election.
Supporters say the change would give the governor more control over education policy, since he or she currently has very little control beyond an appointment to the state Board of Education, budget proposals or bringing the public’s attention to an issue.
“The current system has not produced very good results,” State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, said. “But this increases accountability because it would put education — which is half of the state budget — at the forefront of every gubernatorial campaign.” He argued the nature of statewide elections also scares away individuals who could be solid choices to lead the state Department of Education.
Some Senate Democrats initially expressed skepticism of the idea earlier this week, questioning if the pick would just become a political appointee the governor liked.
“This is a position that is so important. Public education is the most important thing that we have going for us in South Carolina,” State Sen. Kevin Johnson, D-Clarendon, said. “I still think this should rest with voters.”
However, Johnson and others on the panel dropped their concerns after the committee agreed to an amendment Wednesday that requires anyone appointed to the job have a public school career background.
If voters approve the referendum, the current proposal would not have the constitutional change take effect until 2023.