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Why this SC teachers' group is making its choice known in the governor's race

‘Education is the key’: SC teachers and state workers rally at State House

SC teachers and state workers gathered at the State House in Columbia, SC for the South Carolinians Deserve the Best rally, advocating for higher pay and more support from state lawmakers.
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SC teachers and state workers gathered at the State House in Columbia, SC for the South Carolinians Deserve the Best rally, advocating for higher pay and more support from state lawmakers.

The state's second-largest teachers association said Friday it will support James Smith's bid to become South Carolina's next governor.

In a statement Friday, the S.C. Education Association called Smith, D-Richland, a "friend, defender and counselor" of the state's teachers and students.

The association is a state affiliate of the National Education Association.

"While the SCEA and the students we serve have been supported by a few committed advocates in our state Legislature, no legislator has been more committed than James Smith," said Bernadette Hampton, the association's president.

"His record gives us every reason to call him the best choice to be our next governor."

That endorsement likely was helped by Smith's appearance May 19 at the State House, where hundreds of S.C. public school teachers and state workers rallied to demand higher pay and more money for schools.

South Carolina is dealing with an ongoing teacher shortage, a result, in part, of low pay and demanding teaching requirements.

The state's largest teachers' group, the Palmetto State Teachers Association, does not endorse candidates, said association Director Kathy Maness.

Smith — who on the campaign trail says he will be the state's next "education" governor, similar to former Gov. Jim Hodges — faces a three-way primary on June 12 to win the Democratic Party's nomination. He faces Charleston businessman Phil Noble and Florence attorney Marguerite Willis.

Smith said Friday he was honored by the endorsement.

"Our public schools are the foundation of the American Dream — the promise that no matter who you are or what your circumstances, you can achieve anything," he said.

"Teachers make that promise a reality."

Maayan Schechter: 803-771-8657, @MaayanSchechter
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