Today, Vincent launched his "Back to School, Back to Basics" education initiative to improve public education in South Carolina. The initiative brings together teachers and parents around the state with Sen. Sheheen to discuss the reforms that he has worked on for the past decade, and highlight his suggestions for how to make real changes for students, teachers and parents in South Carolina.
"It's back to school time and we have to get back to the basics," said Sen. Sheheen. "We know what it takes to improve public education and it is simple: expand access starting with 4-year-old kindergarten, and improve the quality of the classroom by increasing teacher pay and shrinking class sizes."
"Our schools suffer when politicians ignore students and teachers for years then embrace gimmicks instead of real solutions," Sheheen continued. "I have been proud to lead the fight to expand and improve public education throughout my career and bring both parties together to deliver results. Students, parents and teachers deserve a leader who stands up for public education in more than just an election year."
Over the next three weeks Sen. Sheheen will travel the state to sit down with teachers, parents, and school leaders to discuss these ideas and hear new suggestions before they head back into the classroom.
Read more about Sen. Sheheen's commitment to public education and his ideas for how to improve leadership and accountability in South Carolina in his book, "The Right Way: Getting the Palmetto State Back on Track" which can be downloaded for free here.
Honest Leadership for South Carolina's Students, Teachers & Schools
South Carolina is blessed with some of the best people and hardest working teachers and students in the nation. With the failures of leadership and the neglect of our public education system over the past several years however, our state also has the distinction of having some of the worst schools in the nation as some are literally unsafe and crumbling.
Right now in South Carolina one in four students who enter high school as freshmen do not finish. Of those who do complete high school, only 66 percent move on to pursue higher education. And as the state has continually disinvested in higher education, tuition costs at South Carolina's public colleges and universities have reached the highest in the Southeast, and one of the highest rates in the country. We're pricing poor and middle-class students out of higher education completely or saddling young people with a lifetime of debt to make their way through. It is time for a change.
Nikki Haley has spent the last three years ignoring public schools and vetoing $110 million in vital funding. She vetoed pay raises for teachers. Her veto pen hit education harder than any other area, with more than a quarter of her vetoed funding coming from public education. South Carolina deserves a governor who will lead and make education from cradle to college a priority instead of standing by as teachers, students, and parents give their best with no support. Our students and teachers deserve a governor who is committed to education all the time, not just in election years.
As the son of a teacher and principal, and someone who attended South Carolina public schools his entire life, Vincent Sheheen understands that a high-quality public education system is the key to South Carolina's long-term economic success and to creating a brighter future for our children. That's just one of the reasons why all three of his sons attend the same public schools that he went to in Camden.
Senator Sheheen has been a forceful advocate for public education, and has worked across the aisle to deliver results. As governor he will take a "One South Carolina" approach to improve public education at rural, urban and suburban school across the state, and put South Carolina at the top of the list for affordable higher education.
Expand Access & Improve Quality of Education
If we want our children in South Carolina to compete in a new, global economy, we need to invest in education for a child as early as possible. Teachers cannot give enough attention to each child when class sizes are too large -- that's a problem in South Carolina. Too many public schools also have grossly out-of-date textbooks or are not able to provide textbooks for certain subjects.
Vincent's plan of action
Provide universal, voluntary 4-year-old kindergarten for children across the state.
Dedicate funding to ensure textbooks available and up to date at every school around the state
Emphasize STEM programs to give students more competitive skills for the 21st century workforce.
Provide students and their parents with more options to fit the needs of each child and their family.
Offer a public school choice plan, allowing parents to send their children to public schools in a wider community.
Upgrade and increase funding for statewide virtual programming.
The key to a success future is a solid foundation of education, which starts with good teachers. Teachers should be treated like the professionals that they are. Our educations should be rewarded for positive results, encouraged to grow their skills and a voice in the governor's office and given a path to applying their prior-professional skills to teaching.
Vincent's plan of action
Increase teacher pay to at least the national average within five years.
Move away from the overly strong focus on testing to focus on improving learning instead.
Lower class sizes statewide so teachers can provide students with individual attention.
Reduce red tape and unnecessary paperwork that takes teachers' time away from teaching.
Create a "Governor's Council of Teachers," to open discussion between elected officials and teachers and provide honest, real-time feedback on school reforms and changes.
Expand teacher training to include on-the-job training and fund mentoring programs.
Support alternative pathway programs, allowing professionals with decades of experience to become qualified teachers in their area of expertise without unnecessary coursework.
Adopt a "One South Carolina" Approach to Lift Up Rural Schools
For all of the children and our state as a whole to succeed, our rural schools must be given just as much attention and resources as their urban and suburban counterparts. We have to invest in our children's education properly, and we need real reform to make sure we do it responsibly without any additional burden to the taxpayers. To create a competitive workforce and improve quality of life and education, we must adopt a "One South Carolina Approach" to truly reform how we fund public education.
Vincent's plan of action
Adopt a One-South-Carolina approach, to truly reform how public schools are funded.
Reduce inequities in the tax system created by Act 388
Stop funding students based on where they happen to live
Allow the state to more provide education funding as needed to lift all schools up and improve the public education system statewide.
Rewrite the state code definition of spending for instruction and instructional support, to cut red tape, reduce expenses, and ensure funding if being spent in the classroom instead of on overhead.
Offer incentives to teachers for relocating or commuting to rural areas
Conduct education audits each year to help schools save money where they can and provide more information on essential areas in need of funding.
Make Higher Education More Affordable
Tuition at our state colleges and universities is skyrocketing in large part due to disinvestment from the state and a lack of leadership from elected officials. We must make higher education a priority to keep skills fresh, have a fully functional workforce to attract businesses, and stop pricing low and middle-class students out of one of their best shots at achieving the American Dream.
Vincent's plan of action:
Provide state colleges and universities with an increased amount of stable, dedicated funding from the state in exchange for tuition-reducing measures on their part and a tuition cap.
Create a college affordability task force to bring together college presidents and the Governor's office to identify best practices on reducing costs to the University and students.
Dedicate a portion of revenue growth each year to stabilizing the cost of college tuition.
Fully fund our state's technical college system to support two-year degree programs and ongoing higher education for workers.
Require technical colleges and universities to accept credits earned at other state technical colleges and universities.
Streamline worker training by integrating workforces programs into one network for both workers and companies.
Promote our technical college system to the perception of technical colleges to encourage young people to attend.