|Get involved in politics to help schools, Rex advises educators|
, The Post and Courier
It's been less than two weeks since state Education Superintendent Jim Rex won the battle for the state to reform its accountability laws, but he already is rallying education advocates to fight for much-needed changes to the state's decades-old school funding formula.
Rex urged educators on Wednesday in his second State of Education Address to mobilize, get involved in the political process and push for this "daunting and important challenge."
"Its outcome will shape what our state looks like — for better or for worse — for coming decades," Rex told more than 1,800 school principals and educators at the annual School Leadership Institute in Myrtle Beach.
He acknowledged that changing the state's tax system and method for funding schools will be more challenging because it's a more complex situation with more vested interest groups. But he said he sees an increased sense of urgency among business and community leaders to tackle this issue because they understand the system is broken.
"These kinds of reform are not only possible but probable if you get this grassroots support," he said.
He pointed to recent changes to the state's Education Accountability Act, which hadn't been revised in a decade. Many told Rex it was politically foolish to pursue the changes, he said, but the bill got unanimous bipartisan support from the General Assembly and was allowed to pass into law by the governor because of the number of people who got involved, he said.
"We, the education community, must lead and demonstrate what effective advocacy looks like," he said.
He gave educators specific examples of what they could do to get involved. He asked them to sign and publicize a petition at www.goodbyeminimallyadequate.com that would change the state constitution by replacing the current standard of "minimally adequate education" to "a high quality education, allowing each student to reach his highest potential."
He asked educators to reach out to business, faith and community leaders, volunteers, retirees and legislators and talk of the need for funding reform.
He asked teachers, parents and high school students to register to vote and develop plans to ensure that citizens actually exercise that right.
"Teachers have to be reminded that they have a constitutional right and obligation to not just register and vote but to reach out and get involved in the political process," as long as they do it on their own time, he said. Teachers have the same rights as anyone else to get involved, though some have gotten the message from district offices that they shouldn't, he said.
"That's ridiculous. ... Those days have gone. Teachers don't give up their constitutional rights because they chose this profession."
Katie Hines-McCormack is a teacher at West Ashley High School and treasurer of the Charleston Teacher Alliance, a teacher advocacy organization. She agreed it's up to educators to fight for the public schools .
Educators should push for needed changes in their profession without fear of repercussion, and they should get involved in local or state advocacy groups, she said.
"We have to be the spokespeople," she said.
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