Longtime SC teacher advocate pitching bid for state superintendent | Palmetto Politics

COLUMBIA — A longtime advocate for Statehouse teachers is joining the race to lead South Carolina’s K-12 public schools.

Republican Kathy Maness, executive director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association, is running to replace retired state superintendent Molly Spearman, her members were notified by email Jan. 13.

“In light of Superintendent Spearman’s decision to retire and with so many challenges facing education today, many of you have approached me to introduce myself,” Maness said in an attached video. to email. “Running isn’t something I had planned to do or maybe even wanted to do, but the time has come.”

The email, first provided to The Post and Courier, was sent four days before Maness officially launched her campaign in Lexington, where she has lived for 28 years.

Maness joined the association’s staff in 1993 after teaching 9½ years at a primary school in Lancaster, his home town.

Beyond her day-to-day work lobbying for teachers, Maness is a member of the Lexington City Council, a post she first won 18 years ago. Her profile in this role was raised in November 2020, when she became the first person from South Carolina to serve as president of the National League of Cities, a city advocacy group.

Maness holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education from the University of South Carolina.

His announcement makes the race a three-way pitch so far. Others might join. Candidates cannot officially file their case for the June primaries until mid-March.

The last time there was no incumbent on the ballot was in 2014, when Spearman, also a former teacher, won her first term after a four-way Democratic primary and after beating seven other Republicans in the presidential contest. GOP. No one challenged his candidacy for a second term.

Maness faces an uphill fundraising battle against Ellen Weaver, who earlier this week said she has raised nearly $127,500 since announcing her candidacy in late November. Maness has raised just under $11,000 in the past month, according to Jan. 10 campaign documents with the state Ethics Commission.

SC education chief Molly Spearman announces she won't seek 3rd term

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Weaver is another familiar face at the Statehouse, although sometimes the opposite of Maness.

As president of the conservative think tank Palmetto Promise Institute, Weaver is a leading advocate for school choice legislation that uses state taxes to help parents pay for private tuition. – proposals long opposed by teachers and public school administrators.

Since 2019, Weaver has also served as chair of the Education Oversight Committee, leading a legislator-appointed council of legislators, business people, and educators. The agency, which is independent of the state Department of Education, oversees student testing and report cards.

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And while this is Weaver’s first candidacy herself, the Bob Jones University grad worked for former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint for 12 years, first as executive assistant to the Republican from Greenville while in the US House and the last three years as his state. director. DeMint founded the Palmetto Promise Institute with campaign money when he left the Senate in 2013.

Kizzi Gibson, a public school educator for more than 18 years, was the first to start fundraising, months before Spearman announced last October that she would not seek a third term. The Lexington District One art teacher has received about $7,750 in donations since last June, campaign documents show.

Unlike other states, South Carolina does not have a teachers’ union. Like other Palmetto State public employees, teachers are not allowed to bargain collectively or strike. South Carolina, however, has several groups that advocate for South Carolina’s more than 50,000 teachers.

The Palmetto State Teachers Association was formed in 1976 to give teachers the choice of a professional association without national union affiliation and has become the largest in the state.

In his video message to members, Maness said his decision had been accompanied by “a lot of prayers and conversations” with his family and the association team. The email, sent by board chair Betsy Portune, said the board had given her permission to run.

Maness has decided “she can better serve the educators, students, and families of our state in the coming year by seeking the position of superintendent,” reads the message from Portune, a teacher with the Williston School District– Elko.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

To follow Seanna Adcox on Twitter at @seannaadcox_pc.

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