Greenville attorney Frank Holleman is the first Democrat to enter next year's race for superintendent of education.
Holleman told The State on Monday that he'll run to succeed outgoing education chief Jim Rex, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.
"South Carolina is at a critical turning point," said Holleman, 55, U.S. deputy secretary of education under Education Secretary Dick Riley. Holleman also was Riley's chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education.
"The economic crisis we faced ... has shown us that the future success of our state is dependent on improving the quality of education in South Carolina," said Holleman, who said he plans to focus on enrolling more children in early childhood education initiatives, bringing more innovation into the classroom and better prepping high schoolers for universities and tech schools.
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Holleman said he will oppose any tax credits or vouchers that would divert public dollars to parents who enroll their students in private schools.
Several such initiatives have been proposed in recent years, but all have failed in the General Assembly.
"Regardless of where your children go to school, we all have a substantial stake in the success of our public school system," Holleman said. "We need to look for ways that we can work together to build the success and not to do anything to undercut our public schools."
Holleman, a Seneca native, also was the first vice chairman of the S.C. First Steps board, a statewide initiative to prepare young children to succeed in school.
Rex said he is not endorsing a candidate at this time but said Holleman is the type of candidate he would like to replace him.
"He's an incredibly well-qualified candidate. He's been involved in education at the state level and the national level," Rex said.
While no other Democrats have entered the race, two Republicans are in.
Furman University professor Brent Nelsen announced his candidacy earlier this summer. Lexington-Richland 5 teacher Kelly Payne is expected to announce that she is running for the post in coming weeks.