Mick-Zias-2“I believe that no child should be forced to attend a failing school,” Dr. Mick Zais, South Carolina Superintendent of Education, told the Greenville County Republican Women Thursday. “Low income families deserve the same rights that high income families have always had, which is to choose the best school, which is the right fit for their child.”

Zais, who took office in January as the first Republican superintendent of education in 12 years, focuses on outcome and student learning, not input spending, curricula and programs.

On his first day in office, Zais testified before the state House Ways and Means Committee and recommended $103 million in cost savings and a 15 percent reduction in the State Department of Education budget and staffing levels while preserving the money going to the classroom, where it has its greatest effect.

Zais stressed three imperatives—competition, accountability and incentives—to transform education. “Funding must follow the child,” Zais said.

“While every child is special, every child is different,” Zais said. They differ in ability and motivation, rates of maturity, their interests, skill sets and personality, and their home environment, “yet we have a traditional school model that puts every child in the same classroom, and expects them to learn the same material on the same schedule.”

This one size fits all, assembly line model, is the opposite of personalization and customization. “We have the ability today to personalize and customize education.”

Zais said we need to offer different kinds of educational environments—public schools, public charter schools, online or virtual schools, single gender programs, year-round schools, Montessori schools, home schools, public magnet schools, alternative schools, career and technology academies and private schools.

Zais said we need more flexibility in course offerings and suggested allowing business writing to substitute for British literature, public speaking to substitute for American literature, consumer math for Algebra I, personal finance and business math to substitute for geometry, or statistics for Algebra II.

Teachers are compensated based on whether they have a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree and the number of years they have been in the class room, but Zais advised compensating effectiveness, rewarding the best teachers and removing the least effective ones from the classroom. To be effective, Zais said, teachers must be allowed to maintain discipline and award grades based on student achievement. School superintendents must have the authority to hire and fire principals, he said, and principals must have the authority to hire and fire teachers and have authority over programs and budgets in their schools.

Zais said that earlier that day, two senators, Jake Knotts (R-Lexington) and Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington), put a hold on a strong charter schools bill, effectively delaying it until January. Zais asked GCRWC members and guests to contact their senators and representatives to do everything they can to get the charter schools bill passed and a teacher protection bill passed. The bill lost 60-59 in the House the previous day with a number of Republican representatives voting against the bill.

Zais said the main responsibilities of principals are to recruit, motivate, train and retain quality teachers, and that principals, other teachers and even students and their parents should be able to evaluate their teachers.

You can watch a video of Dr. Zais’ address online at SouthCarolinaConservative.com.


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