South Carolina ETV and The State newspaper sponsored a debate Monday evening between the two major party candidates for Superintendent of Education. The Republican, Karen Floyd and the Democrat, Jim Rex both were disappointing.
Floyd appeared far too slick for my liking. When asked point blank about tax credits for private school tuition, she fudged and went on and on about "choices." Floyd was given a point blank opportunity to say yes or no to tax credits and offer a clear reason why she would support such. Instead she tap danced like a typical politician.
Further, she had cute words for privitizing some education department services, calling it a program calling for "diverse providers."
If you are a conservative and you believe that Karen Floyd is a champion of the more conservative viewpoint on education, this debate should serve as an eye-opener. Time after time, Floyd refused to speak with candor and offer direct reasons for the conservative approach. Even when asked point blank, she stuck to her fuzzy talk. Floyd simply lacked the candor that Governor Sanford has on such issues.
What makes Floyd's performance all the more puzzling is that she has been backed by a national effort to see things like tax credits for private school tuition come into being. When pressed about those campaign contributions, instead of defending the point of view that those contributions are supposedly for, Floyd droned on about Congressman John Spratt's out of state contributions.
If one was looking for someone to carry the private school tuition tax credit issue to a full debate, one was left disappointed by Floyd.
Rex was no better. A product of the education administration bureaucracy he offered more bureaucracy as the solution to some of the state's education woes. To his credit, though, Rex was at least clear about where he stood.
Both candidates ignored the issue that I believe is the biggest cause for lack of achievement in education in South Carolina: the culture of failure in some areas of our state. No amount of money, however directed can fix the problem as long as children are not encouraged to succeed in the classroom by the people around them. To me, as long as that culture of failure continues, the state can spend money on tax credits, new buildings, whatever else, and our performance will still lag behind.
There is one thing to both candidates' credit. They both seem to support the Governor's idea of more equitable public school funding throughout the state. But, again, without the culture change, that will have marginal benefits.
Again, it was a disappointing debate. It pitted a champion of the status quo against a Republican who seemed unwilling to clearly articulate the conservative approach.
Mrs. Floyd said repeatedly that she "had answered the question but not in the way you liked." The "you" she referred to was interchangeable between the moderators and her opponent. By the end of the debate, I included myself in that interchangeable pronoun. I did not like her answers. Just once it would have been refreshing if Floyd would have stated, " yes, I support tuition tax credits, and here's why...."
At this point, Libertarian Tim Moultrie is getting my vote.