Two Republicans with powerful allies said Tuesday they will run for state schools chief, joining an increasingly crowded field for Junes GOP primary.
Charmeka Meka Childs deputy superintendent for school effectiveness under state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais and a former education policy adviser to then-Gov. Mark Sanford will announce her bid for the GOP nomination Wednesday. Zais, who encouraged her to run, is not seeking re-election.
Amy Cofield a Lexington attorney, former public school teacher and friend of Gov. Nikki Haley announced Tuesday that she is seeking the GOP nomination.
Childs and Cofield join Sally Atwater, widow of GOP strategist Lee Atwater; Anderson County school board member Gary Burgess; conservative activist Sheri Few of Lugoff; and Elizabeth Moffly, a Charleston County School Board trustee, in the Republican primary.
Two Democrats also are running: state Rep. Mike Anthony of Union, a retired public school teacher and football coach, who former Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges endorsed Tuesday; and Montrio Belton of Fort Mill, a former public school educator who briefly worked in the state Education Department under Zais.
Childs, 36, said if elected she would focus on improving the effectiveness and quality of instruction that our teachers offer. That is something that is an important part of preparing our students for what they will face when they leave high school.
At the Education Department, Childs has overseen the development of an evaluation system for teachers and principals that has been Zais chief focus. Ensuring the states resources are used responsibly, encouraging community engagement in public schools, and strengthening quality of instruction that each child receives, each day, regardless of income, will be other priorities if she is elected, she said.
Childs spokesman said she resigned Friday from her Education Department position.
A South Carolina native, Childs graduated from Airport High School in Lexington County, where she said her teachers prepared her for the challenges she faced after high school a feeling she hopes every public school student in the state has upon graduating.
Childs worked for four years at Dent Middle School in Richland 2 after graduating college, teaching social studies and coaching basketball, before working for then-Gov. Mark Sanford as his education policy adviser.
As an African-American woman, Childs said she is aware that her candidacy is historic. An African-American has not been elected to statewide office in South Carolina since Reconstruction.
Cofield, a former public school teacher, said in a news release that she is an advocate for conservative policies that put parents in charge of their childrens education.
Cofield was not available Tuesday for interviews, her spokesman said.
But Cofields campaign news release touted her opposition to Common Core education standards, which outline what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Haley also opposes the state standards, developed by associations representing state governors and schools chiefs, and voluntarily adopted by most states.
Critics say the standards came from the federal government. In her news release, Cofield expresses concern about the federal government reaching into classrooms. Our classrooms must be free from Washington politicians and bureaucrats, with final curriculum and policy determined at the local level. And, our parents must be able to choose which environment is best suited for their childrens education.
Haley did not endorse Cofield, though Cofields campaign website includes a photo of the two women together with Cofields husband.
Gov. Haley has always said that its a thing when good people get involved in their government, but she is staying out of the superintendents race, just as she is staying out of other statewide races, her campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey said.
State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, who endorsed Cofield Tuesday, told The State that she asked Cofield to run for state education superintendent.
Andrew Shain contributed. Reach Self at (803)771-8658