My fan, Jim Rex

Just now got to a voicemail that was left for me on my office line this morning. It's from Jim Rex, who indicates he was inspired by my Sunday column, "Fuming with impatience." By his account, he's been doing a little fuming himself, and he urges me to keep it up.

To listen to the entire voicemail message, click here

Here are excerpts from what he said:

… This is your equally impatient state superintendent of education, calling the impatient editor of The State newspaper, and I just wanted to tell you, my friend, that what you said yesterday in your editorial piece and the way you said it was long overdue; I appreciate you doing it. I think we all need to step up if we care anything about this state… And I hope you'll keep that tenor, that more uncompromising tenor that you displayed yesterday as you challenge readers to do what needs to be done and put pressure on our policy makers to quit trivializing this process that's supposed to be helping our state….

…If they don't redeem themselves this year, we're in big trouble as a state, and they can't redeem themselves doing the same ideological pettiness and partisan squabbles that don't give us any victories or solutions…

… Just wanted to let you know that you struck a chord with me…

Thanks for sharing that, Dr. Rex.

19 thoughts on “My fan, Jim Rex

  1. Doug Ross

    I would imagine the teachers who will not be getting a cost of living increase will be fuming as well.
    Too bad we spend so much money on useless programs and overhead. Ask him how much the new PASS boondoggle will cost.
    You could also ask him what he thought of Education Week’s report card on education in South Carolina. D’s and F’s… you know, the same source you used to tout Inez’ “qualifications” for U.S. Secretary of Education. Ooops…
    I know, I know, it’s because someone uttered the word “vouchers”. That’s the cause of every problem in the state.

  2. Brad Warthen

    So what are you saying here, Doug? Are you suggesting Rex should say, “Oh, the testing just costs too much money, so I’m going to ignore the state law that says I have to do it?”
    Or what? I’m not following you here. But I have to say that I continue to be struck by the irony that that these two Democrats — Inez and Rex — have been stuck with implementing this testing regime that was thrust upon the state by Republicans in the State House (and business leaders), and then have to bear the BLAME for the whole thing. It’s bizarre.
    Just in case anyone isn’t following: The state superintendent of education doesn’t just do what he or she feels like doing. He or she implements the policies passed by the Legislature. And it will always be thus, which is one of a number of reasons why this office should be appointed (by the governor, with confirmation by the Legislature), and not elected. Seldom is the supt. the actual author of the policies he or she implements. And I don’t see that changing.

  3. Doug Ross

    Then I would assume Dr. Rex would have no problem with providing a comprehensive accounting of the costs associated with the PASS test, right? Every dime spent on consultants, the names of all out of state contractors involved, etc. You’d support doing that, right?
    That would help voters to understand whether we are getting value for the “investment” in “accountability”. Like the ten years of PACT testing that resulting in failing grades…
    As far as I recall, it was Dr. Rex who pushed the legislature for the new tests to replace PACT (conveniently when the PACT results started to show no improvement).

  4. Rich

    Amen, Brad!
    As a public-school educator I can tell you that we are constantly burdened with “accountability” mandates such as almost a month of standardized testing in high school taking students and teachers away from education and spending time instead filling in bubble-sheets.
    And that’s just one example! Tell it Brad! Tell it!

  5. Doug Ross

    From the Charleston Post & Courier, May 9, 2008:
    “State schools Superintendent Jim Rex is putting the heat on lawmakers to pass a bill to overhaul the state’s accountability system.
    The bill already has the blessing of the House and the Senate’s education committee, but it faces objections that would require two-thirds of the Senate to agree that the bill should be debated. Those hurdles, combined with a waning number of days before the legislative session ends June 5, have pushed Rex to get the word out.
    “I feel strongly that this is a change that should’ve happened years ago but needs to happen now and not be dragged out for three or four more years,” Rex said. “What we’re trying to do is make it as clear as we can that this is something the state is ready for.”
    Rex e-mailed supporters and asked them to contact their senators, sent a message to teachers through an automated phone call and held a conference call with media Thursday. He said he hopes the bill’s supporters get involved once they understand its predicament.
    The bill would eliminate the state’s Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test and replace it with a test that would give teachers more timely feedback, require a review of the state’s accountability system every five years and restructure the annual school report cards so they are shorter. ”
    As they say in tennis, Brad: Game, Set, Match.
    If you’re going to be the mouthpiece for the Department of Ed, you really oughta ask for a commission from their overhead.

  6. Doug Ross

    When he runs for governor in 2010, I hope you’ll remember you basically labeled him a powerless bureaucrat.

  7. Lee Muller

    Since the SC spending plan is still $100,000,000 more than last year, the only reason education is not getting more money is all the NEW PROGRAMS created by the legislature.
    Jim Rex needs to man up and ask for the money, instead of playing along with the phony, “budget cuts” propaganda.

  8. Doug Ross

    Did you happen to outsource today’s editorial in The State entitled:
    “Budget crisis demands whole new approach”
    This line at the end particularly caught my eye:
    “When things get this bad, the only way to avoid this monumental waste is to pretend that you’re building a government from scratch. And then to do it.”
    You frequently chastise me for having a “blow it all up” approach to government. I was wondering how this differs from The State’s nuanced recommendation?

  9. bud

    I’m glad to see the State acknowledging, sort of, that restructuring is not the cure-all for state government that they’ve promoted for years. Frankly, the 1992 restructuring was the most wasteful, disasterous policy change in government in my lifetime. That’s why we don’t have an adequate number of troopers on the highways or highway maintenance workers, not the recession.

  10. Brad Warthen

    bud, I don’t know what you’re referring to. We have in no way changed our minds about the need to restructure state government. The need to do so is an open-and-shut case, with no doubt in our minds whatsoever.

    It’s gratifying to see a consensus emerging — after what, 18 years of our pounding on the issue, and the efforts of others before us? — to do one tiny bit of what should be done, specifically, making DHEC a Cabinet agency.

    You wait long enough and maybe, just maybe, South Carolina will THINK about perhaps doing something that makes sense…

  11. bud

    Ok, then I’m NOT glad. The State needs to acknowledge that restructuring did way more harm than good in 1992 and will not solve the major problems of SC government today even if done properly. Restructuring is really nothing more than re-arrainging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
    The opinion piece today was pretty vague. After reading it again I’m not sure WHAT The State wants us to do.

  12. Lee Muller

    “Restructuring”, like “comphrensive tax reform”, is a stalling tactic meant to block and derail steady, small reforms. The obstructionists to not care about building a consensus, or majority rule. They care about building a coalition of those with a vested interest in blocking transparent and open government, especially in spending controls.

  13. Brad Warthen

    The editorial said what we always say, bud — budgeting should properly be done from the bottom up. First, you ask yourself “What do we need to do through state government?” Then you figure out the best, most efficient and cost-effective way of doing it. Then you come up with the fairest, most effective system of funding that.
    The Legislature doesn’t do any of that — it just looks at what existing state agencies are asking for, and decides what it will say yes and no to.
    As always, we’re expressing the hope that lawmakers will approach the task more systemically.
    Perhaps it will help you follow our point if you focus on this passage, which is the best example of what I’m talking about: “We’re talking about deciding we can’t afford to lock up more of our population than any other state, and changing our laws accordingly.”
    That’s something that goes deeper and further than structure or budgeting. It calls for true leadership: Politicians have to step up and say, “Never mind about all that lock ’em up garbage. The fact is that most offenders don’t need to be locked up, and we can’t afford it. Alternative sentencing makes sense, and will save us a boatload of money. Let’s do it.”
    If Mark Sanford (or anyone else at the State House) truly wanted to lead us toward smaller, smarter government in a way that makes rational sense, he would lead on this issue — yet another thing we’ve called for over and over and over, with little response from the politicos. Instead, he’s going to give us a renewed push for vouchers, and keep pressing to reduce or do away with this or that tax. Why? Because he has a national ideological constituency for those things, whereas nobody out there in the circles he values would pat him on the back for rethinking crime and punishment in SC, which would really make a difference in the real world.

  14. Doug Ross

    Just wondering if “monumental waste” is as hyperbolic as watching on in “horror” as George Bush trampled on the Constitution?
    The waste this year is no worse than the waste in any other year.

  15. Lee Muller

    A spot check of several schools in Charlotte found that 90% of those receiving free breakfast and lunch did not qualify for the meals – their families were just robbing the taxpayers

  16. Lee Muller

    I also oppose mandatory sentences, but the problem is in prosecutors who plea bargain away serious crime to nothing, and police who don’t bother to arrest small offenders.
    The result is each city having a few hundred career criminals who have been arrested dozens of times, and continue to commit serious crimes while awaiting the next plea bargain. A study by Charlotte police identified about 140 criminals who commit 80% of the serious crime, yet are walking around loose.
    If the minors were punished and rehabilitated at the first minor offense, they would not grow into these monsters who commit armed robbery and murder without remorse.

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