Stimulus, school choice key issues in state superintendent race

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - On Tuesday, voters will choose a new leader for the state Department of Education. He or she will have to figure out how to make ends meet when stimulus money runs out and lead the way on controversial issues like teacher incentives and school choice.

The two major party candidates are Democrat Frank Holleman and Republican Mick Zais. One of their biggest differences is on school choice.
Zais says parents need a lot more options. "For poor kids stuck in failing school and failing school district, some kind of a tax break to attend a private school that may be the only option to the failing local school," said Zais.

Holleman argues the focus should be on public school reform. "I think vouchers and private tuition tax credits which are just vouchers in a different costume would undercut our public schools and would hurt taxpayers because it only ends up raising taxes for the rest of us and would knock a big hole in our state budget," said Holleman.
Speaking of the budget, what happens when the stimulus money runs out? Zais says the focus must be on students, not programs. "Simply the funding formula to ensure equitable and fair funding across the board and we need to free up local administrators so that they can spend the dollars they do receive in the areas of most need," said Zais.
For Holleman, it's about the "Race to the Top." "I think we need to compete and compete vigorously for all the different grants we can get and then finally we need to look for ways to save money wherever we can save it," said Holleman.

There are also three other candidates on the ballot. Green Party candidate Doretha Bull ran for the Richland One School Board in 2008 and is a business owner

Libertarian candidate Tim Moultrie wants to cut property taxes and fund education with a flat, non-regressive tax. He also supports vouchers and tax credits.

Independence Party candidate tony Fayyazi has a contract with voters on his website promising to get teacher pay in south Carolina in line with surrounding states and eliminate wasteful programs.

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