Last week, I noted that Democrats, Independents and anyone else who cares about public education will vote in the Republican Primary Tuesday if they care anything at all about South Carolina schools. This upset one or two Democratic partisans. Big Deal. Anybody who cares about education in this state would be wasting a vote by picking a Democratic ballot. That goes double for teachers. I’m far from the only one who thinks so. I got this submission from former colleague Sally Huguley — who is also a former speechwriter for Gov. Dick Riley (for you partisans keeping score, he’s a Democrat with a capital "D"), and now one of the top teachers
in Richland Two.
We got it kind of late to be a pre-election op-ed, but I thought I’d give her a sort of guest-post slot. May some of you people who should hear this will pay attention to her. (After all, who am I? I only analyze politics for a freakin’ living.) :
By SALLY HUGULEY
A Voice from The Classroom
Attention, teachers, are you paying attention?
Teachers spend 180 school days asking for attention, but now it’s time to ask whether the teachers are paying attention, because the outcome of next Tuesday’s primary election will have a lasting impact on the direction of our state’s public schools.
A recent story by Bill Robinson quoted an education official as saying most teachers aren’t paying attention to the Republican candidates because they usually vote in the Democratic primary.
Well, fellow educators and all families who support strong public schools, please pay attention, because next week it will be important not just to vote, but to vote in the Republican primary.
Why? Here are three solid reasons.
First, political pragmatism.
Let’s face it, South Carolina is back to being a one-party state. The Republican Party controls the Governor’s Mansion, the State Senate and the House of Representatives. Therefore, it will be critical to have the strongest pro-public education candidates on the Republican ticket in November.
All the Democrats running for governor and state school superintendent are ardent supporters of strong public education. This is not the case among the Republicans running for these two offices. Out-of-state private school voucher supporters are funneling thousands of dollars into the candidacies of Republicans who back the voucher cause. Look no further than the campaigning couple of Mark Sanford and Karen Floyd.
The good news is that there are excellent Republican candidates who have rejected the voucher ideologues and strongly support and appreciate the hard work of public school teachers, students and parents.
This brings me to the second reason: Protect the protectors.
Last session a courageous group of Republican House members joined with other public schools supporters in the Legislature to defeat the movement to divert public money into private schools. They did this under great political pressure from the Governor’s Office and threats from the voucher crowd.
The threats proved true, and now some of our most outspoken supporters — Reps. Bill Cotty and Ken Clark in the Midlands, for example — are facing Republican challengers funded by out-of-state voucher interests.
It is most important that teachers and parents back these candidates in their re-election bids, but the only way to do this is to vote in the Republican primary.
For Cotty, Clark or others like them to be defeated in the Republican primary because the education crowd did not support them would be not just a victory for public school opponents, but also send a strong signal to other elected officials not to stick up for public education because public education won’t stick up for them.
Third reason, political leverage.
With 50,000 certified teachers, another 50,000 certified teachers who currently are not teaching, and thousands upon thousands of retired educators, we should be a political force to be reckoned with. But we’re not, because we either don’t pay attention, or don’t vote in the best interest of our schools and our students.
Public education opponents are counting on your lack attention next Tuesday. It’s time to show them we’re not only paying attention, but we’re taking names. Vote in the Republican primary. It’s your chance to send a message.