Is Anger Enough?

A couple of recent posts related to education have produced quite a few comments – not all of them civil, unfortunately.  The most recent, “The Ugly Fiefdom” was actually a re-post of excerpts from past articles, but the one that got the most strident reactions was “Lead or Follow?”  The reactions – and (for this little blog) the spike in hits – proved a couple of points in the debate about education in the Palmetto State.

People are VERY passionate about the quality of schools in South Carolina.  They’re more than passionate, they’re angry.  They’re infuriated when they see, hear and read about wasteful spending, poor graduation rates, lousy test scores and at-the-bottom school rankings.

But anger isn’t nearly enough.  Parents have been angry for years – maybe even decades – but they haven’t really DONE anything about it.  The parents/voters kept electing bureaucrats with high-falutin’ resumes thinking that maybe THIS time there will be change.

Not a chance.

All of the candidates for State Superintendent of Education are smart people with impressive credentials.  Among the major office seekers are a political and education bureaucrat, a private college professor, a retired general/private college president and an attorney (and former bureaucrat) – and a very successful high school teacher.

On the surface, the latter – a high school teacher – would seem outmatched by PhD’s and a one-star Army Ranger.  But here’s the deal… do the voters – parents – of South Carolina want yet another institutionalist in charge of their children’s education, or do they want someone who LIVES that education and has seen the results of the bureaucracy?

That high school teacher, Kelly Payne, knows – has lived – the consequences of decisions made in Columbia.  Those decisions are not just “policy” to her, they’re critical factors in her ability to teach and in her “kids” ability to learn.

I can’t figure out the relevance of private college educators to a fifth-grader in Beaufort or a middle school teacher in Chester.  Having “cut budgets and fired people” as part of one’s resume means absolutely nothing to a child in a poorly resourced rural school who desperately wants and needs an education so (s)he can go to college.  How does any of that change the culture of tenure and noblesse oblige that is the state’s school hierarchy?

As poorly managed as are the millions of taxpayer dollars budgeted for “education” in the state, the problems aren’t all contained on a spreadsheet.  Oh, better shepherding of WHERE that money goes and HOW it’s spent is critical to improving the school system, and Ms. Payne knows better than most the eccentricities of the where and how.  But there are many more subjects that need to be addressed “just so” to get the best balance between teachers and families.

Another retired general officer, Major General James E. Livingston (USMC) and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient said this of Kelly Payne:

She advocates a back-to-basics teaching approach, knowing that if a student is poorly equipped to succeed in life without learning to properly read, write, speak and do basic math, he will not be prepared to be successful at the next level. She understands that teaching all students these skills to create a solid foundation for them is good, plain common sense. As a parent and educator, Kelly Payne, sees first hand how parental and community involvement is a critical factor in ensuring successful learning communities.[emphasis added]

Last September, a contributor to this blog wrote a piece about branding and had this to say about Kelly Payne.

Kelly has a legitimate story to tell, and she’s the only one in the field that can tell it. She’s never worked in school administration, but school administration is where most of the problems lie. That’s a good thing. She knows what affects children in the classroom. She knows the obstacles. She’s seen the success. She’s got the “street cred.” She doesn’t talk about what’s good for students, she lives it. She can’t stay out at fundraisers too late because she has to get home and write lesson plans and grade papers. Call this backwards thinking, but I think that’s a good thing! It flies in the face of convention, but looking at South Carolina’s education system, I’m not sure that “convention” is what’s worked.

It’s good  – VERY good – that South Carolina parents and taxpayers are angry about the quality of education and the (mis)use of public funds.  But it isn’t enough to be angry in order to get real reform. South Carolina can’t afford more of the same and, honestly, as impressive as the credentials of some of the candidates might be, the perspective they have to offer is not what’s needed.

K-12 public education in South Carolina doesn’t take place in the conference room, at private universities, in the General Assembly or at 1429 Senate Street in Columbia.  Public education happens in the classroom.  Ms. Payne doesn’t see students as numbers – she looks them in the eyes every day.  She talks to and with them and their parents, too.

So, decide: Do you want your children’s education to be a social experiment and an exercise in theoretical learning, or do you want it to be training for life?  If you choose the former, there are several candidates who can give you that.  However, if you prefer the latter, then look at who is already training students – and doing so very successfully – to be prepared for the coming challenges and an educated future.

As someone of prominence in South Carolina once said: “It’s too important to me to sacrifice their education. I get one shot at it. If I don’t pay very close attention to how my boys get educated then I’ve lost an opportunity to make them the best they can be in this world.”

Go ahead, be angry.  Just don’t waste it on choices that you’ll regret.

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19 comments

  1. Garnet Spy:

    You’ve made the best point yet for Kelly Payne: she’s a teacher who’s never been an administrator.

    We need thinkers, workers, and doers to make change happen. We’ve tried the other folks, let’s try a real working person for a change.

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  2. This is one more reason that I am not in favor of government run education… ultimately. Anything the government does ultimately is a failure. I recognize that we can’t take that leap so quickly and easily, but I believe that the only long term solution is to achieve the goal of private education and no government education at some point. We have to work in that direction.

    The further trouble with sending your kids to a private school immediately is that you don’t get to stop paying for other people’s public school by having vouchers and/or just not paying such high taxes. So, in essence, you’re paying for school twice. Most hard working people can not afford this.

    Additionally, community based home schooling programs and/or co-op type situations that support home schooling would be a great thing for us to do for ourselves. Basically, if we setup co-op type situations where people who home school could get together and trade tips and tricks while also having “classes” that are difficult to have in the home (music/band, recess, etc..) we would be able to be more self-sufficient and make home schooling a more attractive option for some. Some people have issues with the lack of socialization that home school kids receive. These types of co-ops/private organizations would eliminate some of that concern. I’m just brainstorming here, though. I know this is not a perfect solution, either.

    Furthermore, for families where both parents work and home schooling is not an option, maybe being able to work with another parent who DOES have the option to stay home and home school to have them home school your kids too could be a decent idea. You’d have to know them enough to trust them, but that should not be difficult. What WOULD BE difficult with this is all of the governmental regulations that would make you in violation of some dumb law, code or ordinance for doing this. I don’t know the laws off of the top of my head, but I’m betting that there is some code, ordinance, and/or law out there that says you’d have to license yourself as a school and be subject to all manner of government exploitation as a result or be classified as a day care of something stupid. If you just did it and acted like the sovereign you are, surely some nosy jerk would not like what you are doing and report you to big brother sooner or later.

    Once again, government just creates problems, not solutions.In the words of Harry Browne “The government is good at one thing. It knows how to break your legs, and then hand you a crutch and say, “See if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk”.”

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  3. Ditto to what Tommy said, I was invited to speak in Kelly’s class today and I was impressed with not only Kelly, but her students as well. I am not a highly educated person, but even I know if you have a plumbing problem, you call a plumber. So it seems to me, if you have a problem with education, you call an educator. Not sure if I can make it any clearer, go KELLY!!!

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  4. Kelly Payne has fought in the trenches, and she also knows the theoretical aspects of teaching that the others say that they are the only ones to provide. She always does her best for the kids no matter what.

    As an It Kid (although I am graduated) I still believe that she is the best thing that could happen for the SC public school system.

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  5. Sorry, not a Payne Fan Club member. The “she’s a teacher logic” is similar to thinking that the Food Lion chain would do well to hire a bag boy as their next corporate president because he’s worked in a grocery store.

    Before you fly off the handle, I’m not comparing teachers to bag boys in terms of contribution, I teach, my wife is an educator, both of my in-laws are teachers, I can think of no more noble profession. That said, we are not hiring a “State Teacher”, we are hiring a program administrator to oversee the program of instruction for the state. A program with a 700,00 kids, 60,000 staff members and an $8,000,000,000 budget. Ms. Payne is not qualified – I’m willing to bet the largest budget she’s administered is her own checkbook and that she’s never supervised anything but school children (although that experience would probably be helpful dealing with the General Assembly…).

    Sorry, not drinking the Kool-Aid on Payne, I am however committed to improving our dismal education system.

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  6. Colonel,
    I am not much on Kool-Ade, my beverage of choice is TEA, with that being said it is obvious the status quo is NOT working. When only
    40 to 44 cents on the dollar gets to the classroom, there seems to be a problem. The problem is not more money, the problem is accountability. For far too long we have elected candidates with the quote “right experience” only to see them fall in lock step with the establishment. I say it is time for the “bag boy” to be given a shot, she has real ideas and real solutions. I have a 5 year old that will be starting kindergarten next year. Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury to afford private school, or to home school. I would trust his future with Kelly more than I would with anyone you consider that has the “right experience”.

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    • I might agree that it’s time to let the bag boys have a shot except we’ve already had one, his name is – gasp – Jim Rex. Rex was a HS English teacher, coach, dean at Winthrop and Coastal, VP at USC and president of Columbia College (which was in trouble the whole time he was there) We’ve also had political power seekers (gasp, Rex again, as well as HRH Inez Tenebaum), attorneys and other associated political wannabes.

      I see one guy with the experience and the lack of “political desire” to do the job well – that’s Mick Zais.

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      • Allen,
        I do agree that Sweet Tea is vastly preferable to Kool-Aid. However, if you happen to have some lemonade around, a half and half mixture is even better. Aronld Palmers anyone?

        As Dolly Parton once opined “Sweet tea…it’s the house wine of the South…”

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  7. It’s Saturday here in the desert – for once it’s quiet so I thought I’d lay out you choice for the SC Superintendent of Education:
    Republicans
    Kelly Payne (http://www.votekellypayne.com/Home.aspx)
    Garnett has covered her fairly well, High School Social Studies Teacher, BA PolySci and M.Ed USC. Published experience is limited to teaching High School. Managerial/executive experience unreported -apparently extensive work with student organizations. Earned Wal-Mart’s Teacher of the Year Award for Lexington/Richland School District 5. Started Alive at 25 program to reduce teen highway fatalities, earned SC National Safety Council’s Leadership award for the program.
    Mick Zais (http://www.mickzais.com/Home.html)
    President of Newberry College, BS Engineering USMA, Masters & PhD Social Psychology Univ of WA. Experience, retired Army Brigadier General. Lead organizations to the Brigade level (6,000 personnel), served on executive staffs at all levels. Taught organizational behavior and leadership at USMA. President of Newberry since 2000, 2008-09 Newberry named in US News and World Reports America’s Best Colleges. When he started, Newberry was in dire straits, underfunded and losing students – since his tenure began, the endowment has doubled enrollment has doubled and they have not raised tuition.
    Brent Nelson (http://www.brentnelsen.com/)
    Was Political Science Department Chair at Furman, PolSci Wheaton College, PhD Univ of WI Madison. Executive/Managerial experience: staff of 21, student population of 270, president of the South Carolina Political Science Association and past president of Christians in Political Science. Teaches Political Science at Furman. On-camera political analyst for WYFF Channel 4. Published author.
    Elizabeth Moffly (http://www.elizabethmoffly.com/Education/Welcome.html)
    Owner of several small businesses in the low country, Unknown, attended Queens College and College of Chas. Executive/managerial experience: Owner Moffly Construction and other businesses. School Choice Consultant.
    Gary Burgess (http://www.burgessforscsuperintendent.com/)
    Researcher, Burgess Research Action Group BA Wofford, M.Ed, Ed.S. Converse, Ed.D USC. Taught High school, served as a principal, professor at Converse and the Citadel, Superintendent Anderson County Schools.
    Democrats
    Frank Hollerman (http://www.hollemanforeducation.com/)
    SC Attorney Wyche group, BA Furman, JD Harvard, Masters London School of Econ and Pol Sci. Executive/Managerial experience: Chief of staff and Deputy Secretary US Dept of Education for Dick Riley. Chairs the Alliance for Quality Education, a nonprofit education reform initiative. No classroom experience.
    Here’s my take on this crowd:
    Hollerman is in it for political experience – he’s a democrat in the Riley vein, Riley is part of what’s wrong with schools in SC. Has a lot of money compared to the rest.
    Nelson – in it for the political experience. You can expect to see him running for something from now on. Very little money, struggles to raise any.
    Burgess – can’t raise the money to be successful has significant baggage related to a morals charge in Anderson and allegations of abuse of staff.
    Moffly – who ever heard of her? No meaningful education experience, had $350 in her campaign fund last time I checked
    Payne – just doesn’t have the executive experience, has some potential baggage related to Rex. Struggling to raise money
    Zais – has been alleged to be ruthless in dealing with staff and faculty, vast experience at all levels of management and significant experience education – his biggest weakness is that he has not worked in the K12 “industry” – that may be a benefit though depending on your perspective. Has some money but not doing well fund raising

    Supposedly there is another candidate but I’ll be dogged if I can figure out who it is…

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  8. Dearest “Colonel”,
    Thank you Sir for your not-so-witty comments this morning…Not only did you insult the people who earn a honest day’s pay bagging groceries, but you also showed your true character by attacking Kelly Payne for her efforts to improve our education system.
    Your reference to “She’s a teacher logic” just goes to show you truly are not capable of comprehending what is needed to rebuild our failing school system. Having someone such as Kelly Payne with her experience in our school’s trenches is what our state needs for Superintendent of
    Education…That is logic!

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    • Jarhead – I’d challenge you to quote me the attack you alledge I made. For that matter, how did I insult anyone? I’d say you’re just a bit touchy on the subject.

      I’ve never been a bag boy but I was a janitor – that didn’t make me qualified to be a facility engineer, 30+ years, a couple of degrees and a bunch of experience later, my superiors think I am more than adequately qualified.

      What has Ms Payne done that makes her so immently qualified?
      Garnett has covered her fairly well, High School Social Studies Teacher, BA PolySci and M.Ed USC. Published experience is limited to teaching High School. Managerial/executive experience unreported -apparently extensive work with student organizations. Earned Wal-Mart’s Teacher of the Year Award for Lexington/Richland School District 5. Started Alive at 25 program to reduce teen highway fatalities, earned SC National Safety Council’s Leadership award for the program.

      Vice Mick Zais
      President of Newberry College, BS Engineering USMA, Masters & PhD Social Psychology Univ of WA. Experience, retired Army Brigadier General. Lead organizations to the Brigade level (6,000 personnel), served on executive staffs at all levels. Taught organizational behavior and leadership at USMA. President of Newberry since 2000, 2008-09 Newberry named in US News and World Reports America’s Best Colleges. When he started, Newberry was in dire straits, underfunded and losing students – since his tenure began, the endowment has doubled, enrollment has doubled and they have not raised tuition.

      For the record, if you wanted a “teacher”, you’ve had one – Rex taught HS english and coached football. He is an unmitigated disaster.

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      • Yes, I know I spelled allege wrong and some of my best friends are Marines – I just wouldn’t want my sister to marry one…

        Here’s a run down on all of the candidates:

        Hollerman is in it for political name recognition, worked for “Dik the edumikashun gubener Riley”, he’s a democrat in the Riley vein, Riley is part of what’s still wrong with schools in SC. Has a lot of money compared to the rest. He will be running for office until he gets elected to something.

        Nelson – in it for the political experience. You can expect to see him running for something from now on. Very little money, struggles to raise any.

        Burgess – can’t raise the money to be successful, has significant baggage related to a morals charge in Anderson and allegations of abuse of staff.

        Moffly – who ever heard of her? No meaningful education experience, had $350 in her campaign fund last time I checked. Runs a construction/real estate business in the low country

        Payne – just doesn’t have the executive experience, has some potential baggage related to Rex. Struggling to raise money

        Zais – has been alleged to be ruthless in dealing with staff and faculty, vast experience at all levels of management and significant experience education – his biggest weakness is that he has not worked in the K12 “industry” – that may be a benefit though depending on your perspective. Has some money but not doing great at fund raising. My choice for the record.

        Supposedly there is another candidate but I’ll be dogged if I can figure out who it is…

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        • Sorry, doing this from Bagram…couple of typos

          What has Ms Payne done that makes her so IMMINENTLY qualified?

          Payne – just doesn’t have the executive experience, has some potential baggage related to ECKSTROM (I originally said Rex). Struggling to raise money.

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  9. Colonel,
    Ahh Grasshopper, I see you have learned well…Soon, you will have the ability to grasp a fly from the hand of El Nino as he is wearing the fashionable light blue suit and bowtie.
    I’m curious to know Colonel…You stated “What has Kelly Payne done that makes her so IMMINENTLY qualified?”…What qualifies you to sit on the sidelines and judge her, or anyone else for that matter?

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  10. FWIW, The Colonel, Zais has struggled to raise money. He has given himself a $100,000 line of credit, but hasn’t raised any more money, in any significant way, than anyone else.

    Beyond his line of credit, he reported raising around $30K last quarter, mostly from out state donors. Based on the addresses, his donors look like former military contacts.

    I’m reading this as a race among three for the GOP nomination, with three candidates with little name recognition around the state. I have no idea how it will turn out.

    I do think it’s time that a GOP candidate won this office, and it will be difficult with Holleman having over $200K on hand, as of last reporting period.

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  11. Andrew, you’ve hit my biggest fear on the head. Hollerman is the man to beat. He has money and connections and he is a Dick Riley Democrat – think Educrat. More programs, more money, same dismal performance. We’re already in the top 20 on $ per pupil and yet only 45 or so cents on the dollar goes to actual instruction (that number is subject to great debate though). Utah wears us out and they spend just over half as much as we di per pupil.

    SemperFi – what qualifies me? Two in-laws who teach middle and high school for the anecdotal bureaucratic information and 10 years as in instructor at several universities straddling the NC/SC line for the practical experience. I teach history and management/leadership. I also recruit for the program I teach in. When I’m home, I visit a high school a week on average during the school year. I read in my 1st grader’s school and teach special physics lessons for my middle school son’s magnet programs. While I’ve been over here, I’ve done monthly VTCs with both schools on different subjects related to this region. I work with one of the teams at my oldest son’s high school as well as assist with the judging of the state science fair. In other words, I am actively engaged with the provision of education in our fair state. Am I an expert on the educative process? *&#^ no. Do I have a better than average ability to judge qualifications? Absolutely, that’s one of the things I’ve been paid to do for the last 20+ years. I see firsthand the products of our education system. Not bragging, just laying out the facts.

    We have college freshman who can’t construct simple English sentences or compute an average. Similar programs to mine recruit nationally; I chose to recruit in state (80%). A trip last year to Lake Marion HS netted 20 kids who were even academically eligible for a scholarship in my program and frankly my standards aren’t that high (1200 or so SAT and a 3.7 GPA). There in Columbia, we have two high schools where less than 20 seniors were qualified.

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  12. Cory Norris:

    Excellent ideas!

    On a slightly related note: I’m for getting rid of all public school related sports programs and facilities. Such programs have turned institutions of learning into fan clubs and nurseries for college and professional sports. If sports are so great and important, let folks do this sort of thing on their own dime.

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  13. I’m really tired of people thinking we need someone with political experience in office. Hell, I’m pretty tired of people thinking we need someone with experience in office.

    Everyone puts too much stock in politicians solving our problems when what we really need is politicians that stay out of our way so WE can solve OUR problems.

    If you get someone like Zais who has been the head of Newberry, people are going to expect him to DO something. He’s going to try to DO something too. That just ruins it. We need people in office who will UNDO things. Cut the government fat. Cut the size of government. Eliminate government intrusion into our private lives. Cut government expenses. We need all of that and more. I’m sick and tired of politicians trying to DO things and/or SOLVE problems. Rest assured that anytime people in government are trying to fix something or do something, the citizens are getting screwed.

    As far as experience goes, we’ve had plenty of old guys in office in this state for a long, long time now and it seems that we’re WORSE off than many states. If looking at who is in office now and looking at the state of our state does not scream to you that “experienced” people in this state must be idiots, then you’re not paying attention. Someone with fresh ideas and the right perspective on government’s role in our lives is much more important than someone who can use their “experience” to keep the establishment in place.

    Oh, and while I am appreciative of military experience and what our guys and gals do, I don’t automatically consider it to be a qualification for anything other than following the orders of a tyrannical federal government. This is not to say that it is NEVER a qualifying factor in my mind, just that it is not automatically a qualifying factor. You have to look at what else the person has done and what else they stand for. I’m just not seeing Zais to be standing for anything other than more of the same and we only need more of the same if we want our children to be complete idiots.

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  14. Cory, I totally agree that undoing is what our “edumicashunil sistim” needs. That’s the prime reason I think Zais is the right guy. He undid much of the bureaucratic BS that was strangling Newberry – in fact, he was ruthless in doing so. What you’re missing when you say you want someone without experience is that more often than not, you get chaos.
    Fresh ideas are great as long as they’re backed with the ability to get them implemented, “to get things done”. The ability “to get things done” comes with experience “getting things done”. Regardless of who you elect, everyone will be expecting him to “do something” as you surmise.
    We need someone who is not political in his approach to “getting things done”. Most generals are asses frankly, I know more than my fair share – I think it would be nice to have one in there shaking things up for a change.

    Like

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