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Press Release: EdFirstSC Campaign Forces Zais to Withdraw Proposal

on Fri, 11/01/2013 - 03:53


EdFirstSC would like to congratulate State Supt. Mick Zais on his decision to withdraw his ill-conceived proposal to permanently gut regulations governing class-sizes, teacher workloads, and mandatory staffing ratios (scroll to bottom).

The proposal was approved by the State Board of Education on first reading by a 15-2 vote

EdFirstSC and The SCEA led a joint campaign that generated over 15,000 emails to the State Board of Education.

According to The State newspaper, Board members reported that emails and phone calls from the public were decisive in convincing them to reject this proposal if it came back for a second reading.

Board members indicated that the proposal had lost all but, “…two or three votes that would be in favor of it."

It’s possible that his withdrawal is something other than an attempt to avoid a humiliating defeat on second reading.

Perhaps Supt. Zais simply decided to follow the suggestion we made three weeks ago, when we publicly called for him to withdraw his outrageous proposal, on the grounds that it was clearly out-of-touch with the will of South Carolinians.

We’d like to remind Mick Zais that we also suggested that he drop out of next year’s race for re-election. 

South Carolina voters deserve a State Superintendent who is supportive of our public schools and the people who serve them.

Doing so would give the Republican Party time to find a credible candidate for an office Zais has repeatedly tarnished with inexcusably poor judgment.

  • Since taking office, Zais sent $144 million of our tax dollars to 49 other states, causing thousands of SC teachers to be fired and directly causing class sizes to skyrocket as we made the biggest cuts to education in the US...24.1%.  SC test scores on NAEP plummeted over this period of draconian cuts that Zais would now make permanent.


  • Since budgets have recovered, Zais has not requested that this funding be restored, even when the state had a billion-dollar surplus.  To continue running SC schools on the cheap, he tried desperately to gut regulations limiting class-sizes.


  • Zais has poisoned relationships with teachers, attempting to give them letter-grades based on test scores of students they've never even met.  At a recent State Board meeting, he suggested making teachers at-will employees, to be fired without notice and without showing any cause or due process.


  • Zais also took 29 personal days during his first ten months in office.  He used those days to go golfing, attend stamp conventions, attend football games, and clean his shed.


  • Zais allowed Jay Ragley to lie to the media, claiming that records related to those personal days would cost $500,000 in man-hours to process and provide under a Freedom of Information Act request.  It ended up taking a staffer about two hours.



  • At another, two senior staff members stood onstage giggling as they sorted questions into those that would and would not be answered.  In a two-hour meeting, less than ten minutes were allotted for questions, and none were asked that raised concerns about their plan. That plan was ultimately rejected by the State Board because of serious concerns about its fairness.


Even those who agree with his goals and radical Libertarian ideology would have to concede that Zais has been singularly ineffective in accomplishing anything of note.

He runs the same play over and over: develop a plan with no input from stakeholders, keep the public in the dark, fail disastrously when it all comes to light...and then withdraw the plan to duck a vote.

To this day, Zais offers the ludicrous justification that some of the targeted regulations had been previously suspended by the legislature.

The legislature suspended those regulations in response to an acute financial crisis during the Great Recession.

This is an absurd basis for permanent education policy in South Carolina.

Zais’ claim that educators had no complaints about this state of affairs shows only his lack of contact with (or regard for) the dedicated professionals who serve our children.

Clearly, 15,000 emails would indicate that they have some concerns.

Patrick Hayes


From: "Teppara, Dino" <>
Date: October 31, 2013 1:23:26 PM EDT
To: "Teppara, Dino" <>
Subject: Dr. Zais Comments on Regulation Dealing with Required School Staffing Levels

Contact: Dino Teppara


Dr. Zais Comments on Regulation Dealing with Required School Staffing Levels


State Superintendent of Education Dr. Mick Zais issued the following statement about proposed changes to Regulation 43-205, dealing with mandated staffing levels in South Carolina schools.


“The department of education recently recommended amendments to this regulation in order to extend the flexibility already provided to school districts by the General Assembly,” said Dr. Zais.  “This flexibility has been law for the past four and a half years.  The proposed change would make it permanent.  Some have stated that suspending some staffing requirements would lead to packed classrooms.  This misinformation is motivated simply by pure, partisan politics.”


“The experience of the past four and a half years shows such claims are unfounded.  During this time, districts have used the flexibility given to them by the General Assembly with wisdom and restraint, making decisions that account for local conditions.  There has not been a single complaint from a teacher, school board, or parent about misuse of this authority.  Local school leaders understand local requirements.  They are better equipped to make staffing decisions than well-meaning officials in Columbia,” said Dr. Zais. 


Because this flexibility continues to exist under current law, the department does not see a need to pursue changes to the regulation.  Therefore, the department has recommended that the State Board of Education not consider this regulation for second reading during their November 13, 2013, meeting. 


“It has always been my intention to provide school districts with as much flexibility as possible to meet the varied needs across our diverse state,” said Dr. Zais.  “In addition to the existing flexibility established by current law, Regulation 43-261 also authorizes districts to request waivers of other regulations at any time.”


“Since the one-size-fits-all compulsory staffing levels were suspended by the General Assembly more than four years ago, superintendents have been able to foster innovation and to make decisions that have benefited children and responded to local needs.”


“Having seen firsthand the positive impact that occurs when burdensome edicts from Columbia are eliminated, I will recommend to members of the General Assembly that the law suspending mandated staffing requirements be renewed.  It’s time to move past partisanship and to support our local district superintendents and school boards,” concluded Dr. Zais.


Dino Teppara, Esquire
Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
South Carolina Department of Education
1429 Senate Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Twitter: @EducationSC