Republican Meka Childs picked up an expected endorsement from her former boss whom she hopes to succeed, state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais.
“A woman of impressive intellect and absolute integrity, Meka will fight tirelessly to ensure that education decisions are made by parents, teachers, and local school districts here in South Carolina, not by bureaucrats in Washington,” Zais said. “As a product of our public schools, a Duke graduate, a former teacher, and a past education policy adviser to Gov. (Mark) Sanford, Meka will be a strong advocate of empowering parents to make effective educational decisions for their children and protecting South Carolina’s right to determine education practices in the Palmetto State.”
Childs worked at the S.C. Department of Education as Zais’ deputy superintendent for school effectiveness for the last four years until she stepped down recently to run for office. She is one of eight Republicans who have said they are seeking the GOP nomination for the seat. Zais, serving his first term, is not seeking re-election.
Other Republican candidates running are Sally Atwater, a former Colleton County teacher and widow of GOP operative Lee Atwater; Gary Burgess, Anderson County Board of Education member; Amy Cofield, a Lexington attorney; Sheri Few, a Lugoff Republican activist; Don Jordan of Columbia, a University of South Carolina professor; Elizabeth Moffly, a Charleston County School Board member; and Molly Spearman, executive director of the S.C. Association of School Administrators.
One Democrat is running: Montrio Belton of Fort Mill, a former public school teacher and principal and former Education Department director.
Zais said Thursday that Childs understands education policy and possesses the business skills that will help her lead the Education Department. She also was the primary author of the state’s application to get a waiver from No Child Left Behind, a federal education law enacted under President George W. Bush.
“She’s got the senior executive leadership experience. She’s proven her skills. That is a very specific skill set,” he said, adding that Childs has qualifications beyond teaching experience that make her the ideal candidate.
“Being a teacher no more qualifies you to be state superintendent than being an NFL football player qualifies you to be the commissioner of the NFL,” he said. “Meka has been a teacher, she has been a coach, she has worked in our middle schools in South Carolina, but being a nice person and being a teacher is not enough for this job.”
Atwater, who recently left a career in teaching special education, took issue with Zais’ comments. “I am sad & disappointed to hear @MickZais feels that teachers are not qualified to lead the Dept. of Education. I strongly disagree,” she tweeted.