COLUMBIA, SC — S.C. House Democrat Mike Anthony says he will be a “cheerleader” for educators and improve teacher morale across the state if elected the next state schools chief.
Anthony announced his run for state Superintendent of Education on Thursday in a string of events starting in his hometown of Union, then in Columbia and North Charleston.
On the sidewalk at Hand Middle School in Columbia’s Rosewood neighborhood, Anthony said he does not have all the answers to solving the state’s education challenges, but “I’m able to build teams together – I’ve built many teams from the ground up.”
A retired 30-year public school teacher and championship high-school football coach, Anthony did not criticize state schools chief Mick Zais, a Republican living in Columbia. Instead, he said he will work to restore teacher morale and seek their input on ways to improve public education.
“I refuse to cut and run on those 700,000 (public school) children,” Anthony said, adding he will never support private-school vouchers that take public money and put them toward private schools.
Anthony is in his sixth two-year term in the House, where he spent six years on the House Education Committee and now is a member on a public education panel of the House budget committee.
Anthony’s opposition to the state’s first private-school choice program – adopted in the state budget starting July 1 – was one target of a S.C. Republican Party news release on Wednesday criticizing the lawmaker. The program provides a tax credit for donations made to nonprofits that pay for children with special needs to attend private school.
The state GOP also criticized Anthony’s opposition to the 2005 bill that formed the state public charter school district and his lack of sponsored statewide education legislation. Anthony said he fully supports public charter schools now and voted against the public charter school bill in 2005 because it did not include sufficient accountability measures.
Anthony also said he has contributed to education bills passing, such as a budget proviso that addresses problems in the high-school athletics league, and pointed to his membership on a panel tasked with reconciling the state House and Senate’s versions of the state budget as evidence of his stature among his colleagues.
So far, Anthony is the only candidate who has announced a run against Zais, who said he will run for a second four-year term. Republican state Rep. Doug Brannon of Spartanburg County said he is mulling a run and will decide soon.
Both Zais and Anthony have a long way to go in raising money for the statewide contest.
Zais has about $2,000 cash on hand. Anthony reported raising $500 in a campaign disclosure filed Thursday with the state. In 2010, Zais spent about $300,000. His Democratic opponent spent twice that.
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