A proposal aimed at letting the governor appoint the state schools chief passed the S.C. House Wednesday.
The bill calls for ending popular election of the S.C. Superintendent of Education – a thorny issue for Democrats who have not won a statewide office since Democrat Jim Rex won the schools chief post in 2006.
The change — supported by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and Republican schools Superintendent Molly Spearman — would require approval by S.C. voters in the 2018 general election.
The House voted 87-24 in favor of the proposal, exceeding the two-thirds threshold needed to pass a proposed constitutional amendment. Two-thirds of the 46-member Senate also must OK the bill.
With Senate approval, S.C. voters will be asked whether the education chief should be appointed by the governor.
The proposal has some Democratic opposition.
State Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun, voted against the proposal, saying it could confuse voters.
The ballot question, he argued, should state clearly that passing the constitutional amendment would end popular election of the schools superintendent. As written, the question asks whether the position should be appointed, making no mention of elections.
Superintendent of education is one of the most recognizable of several statewide offices created in the state Constitution. Critics say the positions are not accountable to the governor, even though they control critical parts of state government – from education to the state’s accounting functions.
The governor could hold officeholders accountable for failure, advocates of the change say. A bill outlining credentials for the education superintendent, if voters decide the position should be appointed, passed the state Senate recently and now is before a House committee.