Haley says state needs more "choice" in education

Governor Nikki Haley
Governor Nikki Haley

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Gov. Nikki Haley says it may be time to expand school choice.

"We are going to continue to see more charter schools by the numbers that are trying to enroll, that want to come into the state," says Haley.

Choice in education looks like this in South Carolina: the number of charter schools has doubled to close to 50 in the past five years.

"We're seeing a lot of interest in charter schools in the Greenville area, but it really is all over the state," says Wayne Brazell, superintendent of the K-12 Public Charter School District.

Some teachers organizations question just how much better charter schools are.

When asked if it was true that only 75 percent of teachers need to be certified in a charter school, Brazell responded:

"We would like to see more flexibility on certification. We think there are some very powerful college professors, business folks. We don't think they should be inhibited from teaching in a charter school because they're not certified.

"We want them to be certified," says Jackie Hicks, President of the South Carolina Education Association. "We want them to know their craft and know children."

More than 13,000 children now attend public charter schools, but funding is still uncertain year to year.

"We need to go and establish measurables for charter schools, and if they meet those they get more funding," says Haley. "It also allows them to challenge themselves, so funding through accountability is always a good way to go."

With waiting lists for charter schools filling up, some wonder if traditional public schools shouldn't be held to a higher standard. If charter schools can close if they're not meeting expectation, but why can't South Carolina have that sort of system in place for public schools?

"It's not going to be something that's a fix it in one year," says Haley. "It's a 7 to 10 year approach to where we need to go in South Carolina to bring education to a whole new level and it's going to be inclusive of everybody. And I want to be able to look back long after I'm gone and say 'That was when we fixed education in South Carolina.'"

"Let's look at see what really needs to be fixed," says Hicks. "I mean really look at it. Instead of coming in with this new idea, and saying 'Let's look at this." Let's get a public school system that's going to work for everyone."

Haley has been meeting with various education and parent-teacher groups to craft her education reform plan.  Haley is expected to announce her candidacy for re-election within the next few weeks.

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