Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell speaks to the First Monday club in Spartanburg Monday, shortly after announcing he will not seek reelection.
By Robert Kittle
South Carolina will have at least two new statewide leaders next January, after Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell announced Monday that he will not seek reelection. State superintendent of education Mick Zais had already announced he's not running again.
"I'm going to make an application to be the president of the College of Charleston," Lt. Gov. McConnell said Monday. "I don't know whether I'll get it or not, but it is kind of dishonorable to run around asking people for their votes and their money and then know in the back of your mind that if you get a call from the college to be the president that you're going to leave."
The change in state leadership could have an effect on your local schools and on how the state treats senior citizens. The lt. governor heads the state Office on Aging.
Dr. Zais says since he still has a year in office, the issues that the next superintendent will face will depend at least partially on what the state legislature does this year regarding education. The state is in the second year of phasing in a new teacher evaluation system aimed at rewarding good teachers and getting professional development to those who need it.
"I don't think that we'll ever have a perfect system, but I know it'll be a big improvement over our current system, which is basically no system," he says.
He says the next superintendent will probably have to tweak and improve the system as it's expanded statewide.
Another issue he'll be pushing this year is improving students' reading levels by third grade. He's been pushing it for years, and a bill sponsored by Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, is making its way through the legislature. That bill would require students to be reading at grade level by the end of third grade or they won't be promoted, but would instead get intensive help to improve. Gov. Nikki Haley has also said improving younger students' reading will be one of her priorities this year.
Zais also wants to work on getting more money to replace aging school buses and textbooks. And he wants to establish a way for the state to take over school districts that are failing year after year.
Lt. Gov. McConnell says he's also got a lot planned for his final year in office. He wants to restructure the Office on Aging and create a statewide strategic plan for dealing with aging issues. If he's successful, he says the next lt. governor will only have to implement the plan.
The main focus will be to provide services to senior citizens to allow them to stay in their homes as long as possible. "It is 40 times cheaper to help people in their homes than it is to let them degenerate and end up in Medicaid nursing beds at $52,000 per person," he says. "So it gives the seniors what they want, the opportunity to age in place, and it gives the taxpayers what they want, a giant savings of money."
Two candidates had already announced they're running for lt. governor, Democrat Bakari Sellers, who's now a state representative, and Republican Pat McKinney, a Charleston businessman.
Two Democrats have also announced as candidates for superintendent of education: Democrats Mike Anthony, who's currently a state representative from Union and a former high school teacher and coach, and Montrio Belton of Fort Mill, a law student who's also a former teacher and assistant principal.
You can learn more about the candidates here:
Pat McKinney, R http://www.votepatmckinney.com/
Bakari Sellers, D http://sellers2014.com/
Supt. of Ed.
Mike Anthony, D http://anthonyforeducation.com/
Montrio Belton, D http://montriobelton.com/