UNION — State Superintendent of Education candidate Meka Childs says that if she’s elected her focus will be on making sure students who graduate from high school are ready for either college or the workplace.
After one term in office, incumbent State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais, a Republican, announced in December that he would not seek reelection.
In the wake of Zais’ decision nine candidates — eight Republicans and one Democrat — have announced their intention to run for the office.
One of those Republicans is Childs who, since 2011, has served as, first, Deputy Superintendent for Policy and Research at the South Carolina Department of Education and, most recently as Deputy Superintendent over the Division of School Effectiveness.
Childs stopped in Union during a campaign trip through the Upstate Thursday morning and discussed what will be her main focus in office if elected.
“I will be singularly focused on making sure that each child that gets a high school diploma is ready for work or college because our kids choose different paths,” Childs said. “I also want them to be ready for citizenship because once they turn 18 they are eligible to vote and I want to make sure they are ready to participate in this great republic.
“When you are looking at citizenship it is not just about what happens at the ballot box and other public bodies,” she said. “I also want to make sure we are equipping them to make informed decisions as consumers.”
To do this, Childs said that if elected she will be implement the following policies:
• Bring Accountability to Every Classroom
Childs said that accountability means the educational system is accoutable to the students while the State Department of Education is accoutable to taxpayers.
“I will fight to ensure that we focus on preparing every child for the future in an efficient and effective way,” Childs said. “We must change the way we measure success in education away from meeting standards set by the federal government to whether or not we meet the standards of our students.”
Childs stressed that she feels the state’s teachers are working hard to prepare their students for the future and are often successful in their efforts.
“I praise our educators for their hard work preparing our students,” Childs said. “Some of our kids are prepared, however I want to make sure to address the fact that some of our students aren’t prepared.”
• Individualize Education
Childs pointed out that education is a partnership that includes the parents of the students who she said must have the power to choose where and how their children are educated.
“Parents must be empowered to make effective education decisions for their children, whether it be traditional, private, charter, magnet, Montessori, single-gender, homeschool, virtual, or one of the many other options we must be willing to consider,” Childs said. “Our children’s futures are too important to take any reasonable options off the table.”
• Protect Powers Enumerated to South Carolina and Eliminate Federal Overreach in Education
Prior to being appointed by Zais to her firs deputy superintendent’s position in the State Department of Education, Childs was a member of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee from from 2008-2010.
As a member of the committee, Childs voted against the Common Core state standards which were adopted by the committee and the State Board of Education.
Childs said that, like No Child Left Behind passed over a decade a go, Common Core is another example of the federal government exercising influence, either directly or indirectly, in education. She said this the result of a “growing appetite at the federal level to speak to what should be going on in education.”
Education, said Childs, is about educating children and she said that those decisions are best made at the state and local levels.
“I believe that decisions about education are best left to those who are closest to the child,” Childs said. “So there’s a state role but as the state’s making decisions we need to involve local leadership.
“Education is an issue best addressed by the states, but particularly by parents, teachers, and local school districts,” she said. “I believe we should devolve as much power in education to the local level as possible.”
To achieve that, Childs said that she will fight “to eliminate the federal government’s meddling in education in the Palmetto State.”
• Attract the Best Teachers for our Students
Childs said she will work to recruit the best teaching talent from around the work and attract top graduates from colleges and universities to the state to provide students with the best possible learning experience.
“One of the things I was proud of when I got to Duke University is how well-prepared I was,” Childs said. “The system worked for me because I worked hard and I persevered, but also because I was given great educational opportunities.”
Childs said she wants to provide such opportunities to the children of South Carolina by attracting top teaching talent, something she said will require a rethinking about the profession and how teachers are compensated
“Teaching in the Palmetto State must be seen as a noble profession that warrants top talent by re-examining how we evaluate, pay, and retain teachers,” Childs said. “Options such as performance bonus pay, geographical relocation bonuses, and high-need subject area bonuses must be considered.”
• Improve Opportunity and Community Involvement
Childs said that with an improvement in the quality of the education they receive students will have more opportunity for success. She said that should be the case regardless of where a student and their family lives.
“I will fight hard so that every student and parent will be confident that the zip code they are educated in does not predict their ability to succeed,” Childs said.
In addition to her service in the State Department of Education and on the Education Oversight Committee, Childs served as an Education Policy Advisor to Gov. Mark Sanford from 2005-2007. Prior to that she was a public school teacher in Richland County from 2001-2005.
Her private sector experience includes working with business and industry leaders to anticipate the impact of legislation on South Carolina’s business climate.
A graduate of Airport High School in Lexington County, Childs holds a BA and MPP from Duke University.
Childs, a native of South Carolina, lives in Richland County with her husband and their daughter. She is a member of Brookland Baptist Church.