Preview: Cindi’s column Sunday explaining restructuring

Something John Rust — a candidate for the Republican nomination in S.C. House Dist. 77 — said during his endorsement interview earlier this week was very familiar. It’s something we hear all the time as to why some people oppose restructuring South Carolina government to put the elected chief executive in charge of the executive branch.

Cindi Scoppe explores this common misconception in her column coming up on Sunday. An excerpt:

    When I finally managed to claw my way through my over-stuffed in-box, a reprise of the Rust message was waiting for me:
    “I saw, again, in your column, a push for enhanced gubernatorial power in South Carolina. You made reference to a leader with bold ideas that don’t get watered down by the timid legislature. Were you implying that this would protect education from unwise budget cuts? If our present governor’s bold ideas were unchecked, a good portion of our education dollar would be paying private school tuition, even bright kids who read at age five would be getting systematic phonics instruction until they were nine, and Barbara Nielson (sic) would likely be State Superintendent. At least 25% of the income tax burden would have been shifted from upper-incomes to middle and lower incomes.”
    When you put it that way, no one in his right mind would want to “restructure” government…

You may be able to see where she’s going with that. If you can’t, you need to read the column on Sunday.

And before that, I’ll be putting video of the relevant part of the Rust interview on our new Saturday Opinion Extra

In fact, you know what? Since y’all are like my extra-special friends and all, I’m going to go ahead and give y’all the video right now:

25 thoughts on “Preview: Cindi’s column Sunday explaining restructuring

  1. Dum Spiro Spero

    Is it part of Home Rule to actively recruit teachers from outside the Palmetto State to work in our schools? Should it rest upon Ohioans, Pennsylvanians, or folks from any other state to educate our children? My fiancee is about to enter graduate school so that she may educate the children of our state, but when she spent some time as a substitute she told me about the high number of teachers that were brought in from outside our state.
    Education is the most basic building block for a successful democracy. If we can’t even get our own population excited about raising our education standards, how are we expected to progress? This isn’t like the NFL draft. We need to get local people, who understand the dynamics of our population, to get involved and improve our lackluster system.
    We owe it to ourselves to throw as much money as possible towards education. We can’t truly be proud of our state, as South Carolinians, until we have lifted our education standards to their greatest heights. We must rely on future generations to make the Palmetto State shine, but first, we must give them the best chance possible.
    If giving the governor more power allows this to happen, then so be it. As long as checks and balances are in order, there will be a measure to halt any outrageous actions.

  2. Doug Ross

    It isn’t just out of state teachers being brought in. RIchland 2 is bringing in teachers from out of the country to teach Math and Science in high school. You can imagine what impact that has on students when the teacher does not speak English as a primary language.
    We’ve got money to spend on all sorts of “magnet” programs but not enough to pay teachers to get the best we can get. Raising teacher pay to be competitive with other industries is the solution.

  3. Commonman

    Interesting interview. Restructuring government has many more positives than negatives. To say the least, the problem with putting more power in the hands of the Governor is the image that this Governor portrays, as well as his poor diplomatic skills. If Governor Sanford took the time to consider the political culture/mindset he is trying to change, he would realize that confrontation over every issue is only digging a bigger hole from which his agenda must climb. The Budget and Control Board itself has never been more political. You have members totally ignoring the Governor’s requests for consideration, yet, he is the Chairman. Then, the Governor goes into the districts of incumbent Legislators to criticize and campaign for their opponents. This is no way to win friends and influence people. A lot more one on one with legislative leaders and a spirit of compromise on both sides would go a long way to furthering the Governor’s progressive agenda. The “my way or the highway” approach by both sides is fatally flawed and should be be ditched.

  4. Mike Cakora

    I wrote a bit about the foreign exchange teachers in South Carolina a year ago. Last school year there were 364 foreign teachers on the special visiting teacher visa in South Carolina according to this.
    There’s no indication that out-of-staters and foreigners are taking jobs away from Palmetto State teachers; you won’t find many unemployed teachers around here. A big cohort has been retiring; in response the legislature passed the defective Teacher and Employee Retirement Incentive (TERI) Program, intending to let only well-qualified teachers continue teaching while collecting their retirement. But the problems with that make for a very long story.
    I don’t thing DSS’s fiancé will have trouble finding work, and a good thing about the teacher shortages is better pay. She will have trouble putting up with the local politics and abysmal management within some school districts, but that’s one of the joys of public education.

  5. Dum Spiro Spero

    It isn’t a lack of work for my fiancee (spelled with only one ‘e’ is the masculine form of the word Mr. Cakora, and I don’t swing that way) that I am worried about, but instead the stories my future wife will bring home to the supper table about her coworkers and the state of her school. There is nothing wrong with bringing outsiders if there are too many teachers vying for jobs in their respective states (or countries for that matter). Yet, it is the quality of the teachers that is the issue, not quantity.
    It does help when a teacher can look at a child and already know them because they are from the same community. It would also help if there were stronger incentives for teachers to stay (allowing well-qualified teachers to work while collecting retirement is awesome).
    What I think is needed most is fresh blood in our political infrastructure, and more innovation. The current stagnation of politics in our state is ridiculous. It was Strom Thurmond who once stated, “It is a matter of common knowledge that the government of South Carolina is under domination of a small ring of cunning, conniving men.” We need new ideas, and new people. Only then can we bring our state’s education system out of the dark, with programs that work and quality folks helping them along the way.

  6. Mike Cakora

    Sorry about the missing “e”, yet another bit of stupidity caused by indolence mixed with relying on a spell-checker.
    Your point on local teachers is well taken; back in olden times we had neighborhood schools where everybody knew each other outside of the school house. But those days are gone. Public education is now a political process that imposes bureaucratic attitudes in running schools. Two years ago I wrote about a well-regarded staff member at AC Flora High School: she was a guidance counselor, the very best, and all the parents knew it. The new principal told the counselor that her TERI contract would not be renewed for the next year because she was just too darn good and her peers could not measure up to her superior standards and productivity. The really smart kids only wanted to work with her, can you imagine?
    In a follow-up a month later I was able to report some good news; the counselor got a position for the next school year in District Two and the principal was reassigned to a smaller school at a much higher rate of pay, as it turns out, but that’s politics in District One.
    Speaking of which, Richland District One will soon have new blood. The school board doesn’t like the way that Dr. Coles plays with their politics, so they’re not renewing his contract. The search is underway and given the history I can predict with high confidence that the new supe will be the best black candidate willing to work in Columbia. That’s not racism, that’s politics here in Columbia.

  7. Fred

    Mark Sanford hates government.
    Why are we surprised he has been a failure at running government. He hates it.
    We got what we asked for, though I am not sure we got what we deserved.

  8. Dum Spiro Spero

    The inefficiency inherent within a bureaucracy is a rather familiar concept for me. I’ve been waiting for over a month now for orders to Fort Jackson that I was told over a month ago I would be receiving shortly. Now because of bureaucratic lag I am stuck at Fort Hood without a job. There is nothing more frustrating for top performers in a bureaucracy than the general lack of ambition and innovation. It almost seems as if outspoken individuals are overshadowed by the “get back in line” mentality that permeates these organizations.
    As I am moving back to South Carolina very soon, I hope to get a better feel for the educational climate in the state in the future. It has been hard to keep track of everything from a distance. Personally it is the most important topic in local politics, and I truly believe that an improved education system will be the saving grace of our state if everyone would just focus their time and effort towards it (instead of partisan bickering and political jockeying).

  9. HWP

    Hey Cindi…
    Always inspired by your take on things around the Statehouse and your not willing to “settle” — despite what must be costly, and wearisome opposition.
    Thanks for hanging in there and calling the “Legislative State” on the carpet. There are only four words for it:
    They have no shame.

  10. Peter

    I understand the State’s drive for restructuring. Count me on board the campaign. But the problem I have is that the Governor is not held responsible for the failures of his administration….so why should we think that in the long term a restructured SC government will be any better than the present one?
    From the problems at Corrections, Health and Human Services, Commerce and others, the blame ALWAYS stays at the agency and never seems to rise to the governor. And yes, while the State claims the Department of Public Safety is not a cabinet agency, the Governor claims it. The Governor’s office is intimately involved with the administration of this agency, from budgeting to public information…but under the State’s notion the Governor has the right to “see no evil and hear no evil”.
    Furthermore, the Governor’s office, any Governor, KNOWS a lot about what goes on and despite what the State says, the Governor has immense power should he choose to use it. He has the bully pulpit…the ability to call out agencies for wrongdoing and the like by using press conferences, editorials, and he has investigative prerogatives. But of course he does not use these levers of his power often, if ever.
    So the problem we have is not just structure. The problem is the people we elect…they just don’t care about us. They love the game of politics, the power and the money…but when it comes to governing they could care less. Until the press truly gets serious about reporting what these clowns do in Columbia nothing will happen. The every day and common activities of people paid by the taxpayers, if reported, would be repulsive to the average taxpayer.
    Put shortly, the State newspaper has far more power to change government than restructuring ever will. But it chooses not to tell the story the taxpayer needs to hear. I understand why it does this, but in the end, South Carolina will never change until the veil is lifted on what highly placed staff and officials in Columbia do, or don’t do, everyday.

  11. JimT

    I’ve been saying for some time my opposition to a stronger governor could be summed up in two words: Karen Floyd.
    This is the one part of Ms Ross Scoppe’s editorial that was unclear to me. When she says “let the governor hire and fire the directors of most state agencies” does that mean the people could elect Jim Rex and the governor could fire him and install Karen Floyd? I’m just saying it’s my ignorance about exactly how it all would work.
    This is a problem when you have government officials who put ideology above all else. Of course, there’s no place where ideology is more rampant than in the Legislature, but at least there there’s an occasional spark of compromise and good sense. Why can’t they all act like Joel Lourie?

  12. Mike Cakora

    Cindi produced another insightful column. For what little it’s worth, I too back your proposal and will so inform those who purport to represent me.
    I gotta disagree a bit with Peter. I’m a reasonably well-informed guy, but I need a scorecard — a wiring diagram — to figure out what the governor has control over and what he does not whenever whenever news of the latest bit of malfeasance, dirty deeds, or just plain stupidity pops up. What’s screwy is that the circuit it incomplete, a lot of stuff is not interconnected, so we should be surprised that we’re even able to hobble about as poorly as we do.

  13. Peter

    Hi Mike,
    I suppose my point was that high governmental officials, when motivated, have far more influence than their basic job description would allow.
    Mark Sanford has no trouble finding the means to voice his libertarian philosophies and to speak out on matters that interest him. But the cat, as they say, seems to have his tongue when it comes to matters mundane but of importance to the people of SC.
    From my vantage point deep in SC government I can easily count 10 readymade scandals that would land officials in jail. Mark Sanford probably has access to scores of similar incidences. But he will stay quiet, as his political path upward and the path to good and honest government are not the same.
    Our media can only find time for the surface of any story, and the good scams are a bit deeper, so I understand nothing will change in Columbia. But let us not pretend that shuffling the chairs on the deck will make much difference, because it won’t.

  14. Brad Warthen

    Peter, I don’t think you’ve been paying close attention. There has been quite a bit of criticism of Commerce, and it goes hand-in-hand with criticism of the governor.

    As for Corrections, please tell me what problems you think there are that stem from the administrative side. The problem with Corrections is deep, profound, fundamental, and lies with the Legislature. It is this: That our lawmakers embrace locking people up when it is unnecessary, and refuse to fund Corrections sufficiently to imprison that many people effectively and safely, much less do anything in the way of rehabilitation.

    It’s an enormous waste of money to lock up nonviolent offenders, people who pose no physical threat to the citizenry. In their own perverse way, lawmakers agree with this equation. So they lock them up anyway (because of some atavistic urge they have to do so), and just don’t appropriate the money. The results are predictable.

    Or were you suggesting there is something wrong with what Ozmint and Sanford have done with the situation handed them? Personally, I don’t see any failings on their parts that pose even a measurable fraction of the systemic problem our laws create. (Ozmint’s greatest sin is refusing to criticize the underlying situation more forcefully and on the record, although he has recently begun to crawl out of that shell.) Here’s a column I wrote about that problem , back in 2005. Things have not changed since then.

    As for HHS, what is your complaint — the changes the governor and Robbie Kerr pushed for a couple of years back? I’ve never decided that was inherently wrong. Nor have I decided it was essentially right. There are no really good choices for a state in the face of steeply rising medical costs, as long as we fail to deal with the problem effectively as a nation.

    I do disagree strongly with some budgetary positions the governor has taken with regard to Medicaid. But mind you, that lies in the realm of the governor’s recommendations to the Legislature, which has the responsibility to write the budget. What we are discussing when we talk about restructuring is the relative effectiveness of a bureaucracy that reports to an elected individual, and one that does not.

    The fundamental failure of our governor AS a governor (and one reason he is such an ineffective advocate for restructuring) is one of political philosophy. Because he subscribes to an extreme ANTIgovernment philosophy, he can’t be an effective advocate for GOOD government. Everyone knows that he doesn’t so much want better government as he wants less of it.

    So it is that he and his appointee do not point the finger at lawmakers for failing to fund prisons adequately. And no one trusts his administrative changes to HHS because they know he basically doesn’t want to do what HHS exists to do. And no one wants to put him in charge of schools because, with almost everything he says and does (including allying himself with such fringe candidates as Karen Floyd), he lets us know that he opposes the idea of public schools. And why is that? Not because he subscribes to some different theory of pedagogy, but because public schools cost more money than anything else the state does, and it is his goal (and that of his allies in the Club for Growth) to see the government spend less, and lower their taxes. Whether government should spend less in the course of performing its proper function is irrelevant to him, just as long as he and his allies pay less in taxes. No one so philosophically constituted can persuade a political culture to reform itself. And so it is that we endorsed him (BECAUSE of his supposed advocacy of reform) only once. As soon as it became obvious that he placeed his anti-governnment philosophy ahead of reform, he lost our support.

  15. Dum Spiro Spero

    “Progressive libertarians feel that people should help take care of those who are less fortunate than themselves, but only if they desire to do so. As such, they encourage the formation of private charities but oppose the provision of charitable services by a government. They are opposed to taxation.”
    Wikipedia did all the work, I just cut and pasted. This sounds like your man Mr. Warthen.

  16. Brad Warthen

    You mean “sounds like your man, Mr. Warthen,” with a comma after “man,” right? Because it sure doesn’t sound like me. But I guess you’re talking about the gov there, and using the “your” ironically.
    To which I would say, “Yup.”
    And then I would add, why does it matter to these people whether said charity provided by a public or a private provider? They would say it had to do with volition. But I don’t so much care, as long as the job gets done. Of course, I don’t care about paying taxes one way or the other, and the really, REALLY do, which creates a chasm between us. To me it’s just one of those things like death, to employ the cliche, but you could just as easily say it’s like life. It just is, and this doesn’t bother me, but it does them.
    And that’s the big difference. It’s not that private charity is more effective or anything. It’s just that that way, they don’t have to pay the taxes. And that’s everything to them. I don’t know why, but it is. I don’t know why two-year-olds act they way they do (as in the “terrible twos”), but they do. Nor do I know why they start acting the SAME WAY again when they hit puberty, but they do.
    Nor do I know why some people go into that same “Me First and the Gimme-Gimmes” stage a THIRD time, but they do, and they tend to stay that way. It’s called libertarianism, and it’s just the way some people are.
    It’s a great name for a band, though, isn’t it?

  17. Dum Spiro Spero

    I apologize for the punctuation error, but I am glad to see that my intent was recognized. As a relatively new tax payer I can honestly say that I am not yet able to decide whether I should empathize with or disagree with libertarians.
    In the state of Texas, military personnel do not have to pay state taxes if they are citizens of the state. My father asked me repeatedly if I thought I was rich or something by not taking advantage of the tax break since I have been posted in Texas for a year and a half now. I told him that I appreciated paying taxes to South Carolina, and that I did not have a problem with it. I realize now that this attitude is probably my youthful idealism in action, but I still don’t know how much that will change in the future. Taxes may be decreased, but they aren’t going away. I figure that it is just a part of being a citizen in our state or nation to pay the required taxes. If this sounds naive please forgive me, but I hope that some of you older, more experienced folks went through a phase like this in your younger years. It is completely understandable to me that a person would want to hold onto every cent that they earn through their hard work. In the future I think I too will want to do the same. Right now though I am living comfortably, enjoying my life, and paying taxes. It is not hurting me, but, then again, I don’t have a mortgage, kids, or any of the other trappings of an older married man. Time will tell.
    Me First and The Gimme Gimmes is a great band name, at least I’m not so naive as to be oblivious to that divinely-inspired moniker.

  18. Peter

    I bought a pretty picture once, but that did not make me a collector. You have written sparsely about the inefficiencies of the cabinet agencies…but that certainly does not make you a reformer or significant critic on this point.
    Yes, the Governor should have gone to the general assembly about the legal system, but I think he went to his plantation instead. His job is to SOUND THE HORN…to make things happen. He fails to try, but always gets a pass.
    Even in the administration of his agencies he fails at the day to day task as, simply, he can’t be bothered. Take Health and Human Services for example, they are the single most inefficient agency in state government. The new Medicaid HMO’s are a disaster and will cost hundreds of millions more than predicted but the shawl of bureaucratic opaqueness dominates the agency, so it will continue to waste money just like it did with the eligibility procedures fiasco, the new Medicaid Brokerage transportation system, and the reoccurring administrative procedures that allow it to have 150 million in cash stashed away for Mark Sanford political purposes while other agencies struggle to provide basic services.
    And don’t even get me started on Commerce!
    His failure needs to be trumpeted so that the mistake we voters made (twice) will not be repeated. We need men and women of honor that actually care about the government and the people it serves. Now we have selfish twits…serving for fame, and money.

  19. Doug Ross

    I guess I’d rather be a libertarian than an
    “You First, Takee-Takee” big government type.
    It’s always easier to let someone else do the work, pay the way, and be responsible for creating real jobs.
    It’s really humorous to read all the editorials about how corrupt and inefficient our local government is and yet have those same people writing the columns think the solution is just a restructuring of what we already have. Hilarious. I mean there are so many examples of good government all around us at the federal, state, and local level that it’s just a simple matter of emulating those high functioning, efficient organizations before our problems are solved.
    Meanwhile, those of us who complain about paying for a system that is corrupt, inefficient, loaded with patronage and duplication of effort, are somehow branded as selfish for expecting the government we pay for to work. As long as we keep paying for garbage, the pile will continue to get higher.

  20. bud

    Doug, you have a point. The State has been pushing restructuring for 16 years now. They succeeded in getting the general assembly to pass what I regard as the worst piece of legislation in state history. The old analogy of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic would apply to that crap piece of legislation with one exception. Not only was the General Assembly rearranging the deck chairs while the ship was sinking they were actively helping the ship sink. And The State served as chief enabler. And of course The State never ran any stories about the impact of the restructuring. They were simply too invested in it. It’s hard to expect someone to investigate something when they were the perpetrators of the crime.

  21. Doug Ross

    Will Folks actually has a very good list of
    95 proposed changes to SC State Government.
    He’s really put some thought into it.
    It’s got all the things I’d love to see in a State Government:
    – Limited taxation
    – Consolidation of duplicate wasteful agencies
    – Term limits
    – A stronger executive branch
    – Education vouchers for the poorest families
    – Consolidation of school districts
    – Transparency in all financial transactions by the government (data,data, data is what will expose the thieves)
    – Zero based budgeting based on inflation and population growth
    Here’s the link:
    FITSNews 95 Theses

  22. Brad Warthen

    Ummm… In case any of y’all actually want to know what I thought of the 93 restructuring, at the time and since then, as opposed to bud’s confused characterization, let me know…

  23. Lee Muller

    SC public school teachers rank in the top 10$ of incomes in this state. Many of them have two-income household incomes from $135,000 to $200,000. The median household income for everyone else in the state is $25,000. Taxpayers simply cannot afford to give automatic $10,000 raises to every teacher who passes a national certification, which translates to no improvement in the classroom.
    There are low-paid teachers at the bottom, and the administrators keep it that way to use them as poster children for fat raises and lavish benefits at the top.

  24. Lee Muller

    That should be, “SC public school teachers rank in the top 10 PERCENT of incomes in this state.” (as they do in all states. That is why they rank at the top in sending their children to private schools – they can afford it.)

  25. Lee Muller

    That should be, “SC public school teachers rank in the top 10 PERCENT of incomes in this state.” (as they do in all states. That is why they rank at the top in sending their children to private schools – they can afford it.)


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