2014 elections

Two more join GOP race for SC schools’ chief

jself@thestate.comFebruary 5, 2014 

  • Superintendent of education

    Candidates announcing Tuesday for state schools chief

    Amy Cofield

    Age: 50

    Family: Lives in Lexington with her husband Jimmy Terrapin. They have two sons and three step-sons.

    Education: USC graduate, bachelor’s in early childhood education, master’s in education and law degree

    Occupation: Attorney; formerly, Anderson County elementary school teacher

    Meka Childs

    Age: 36

    Family: Lives in Richland County with her husband Felix Childs and their daughter.

    Education: Duke University, bachelor’s in history, master’s in public policy

    Career: Deputy superintendent of school effectiveness, S.C. Department of Education; formerly, director of legislative and policy analysis, S.C. Business and Industry Political Education Committee, and education policy adviser to former Gov. Mark Sanford

Two Republicans with powerful allies said Tuesday they will run for state schools’ chief, joining an increasingly crowded field for June’s 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 state’s 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 children’s education.

Cofield was not available Tuesday for interviews, her spokesman said.

But Cofield’s 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 children’s education.”

Haley did not endorse Cofield, though Cofield’s campaign website includes a photo of the two women together with Cofield’s husband.

“Gov. Haley has always said that it’s a thing when good people get involved in their government, but she is staying out of the superintendent’s 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

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service