Published 7:52 a.m. ET Feb. 3, 2018
South Carolina is at a critical juncture in our history, and our gubernatorial candidates must put forth policy proposals that demonstrates their understanding of the needs of our state. Rather than parroting the lobbyist-manufactured rhetorical platitudes they are currently distributing, our state needs our candidates to earn our votes with well-reasoned positions that serve our state instead of their donors. Of paramount importance to the state is an articulated labor and education policy that demonstrates a nuanced understanding of their mutualism. Failure to do so indicates an unwillingness to promote the diversification of the state’s economic portfolio that is necessary to protect the state from being too reliant on manufacturing — a reality currently devastating the Rust Belt.
Amazon recently announced their finalists for their second headquarters. Not surprisingly, South Carolina municipalities failed to make the cut. Among Amazon’s key preferences for selection is the availability of a highly educated labor force and a strong university system to serve as a labor pipeline. As currently constructed, our state does not possess either.
According to the American Community Survey, only 36 percent possess at least an associate degree, while only 26 percent possess a bachelor degree. Our Commission on Higher Education has been stricken by increasing infringes of their oversight responsibilities which has led to tuition skyrocketing at state institutions to levels among the highest in the country – limiting the access to post-secondary attainment for thousands of Palmetto state students.
Of critical importance is for our next governor to understand the importance of post-secondary success for the citizens in this state. According to a 2017 National Center for Education Statistics study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the wage earnings between a high school dropout and a high school graduate is decreasing, while the income differential between a high school diploma and any post-secondary education is growing at an exponential rate. This lack of educational attainment threatens our state’s economic security and for South Carolina to be successful in the near future, we need a comprehensive education policy that sets pathways for all students to achieve some level of post-secondary success.
To be sure, there are many issues with education in South Carolina — both K-12 and Higher Education — but the current positions being proffered by our candidates demonstrates a lack of critical understanding of education’s importance to the economy. By focusing on the weathered debates like school choice or consolidating poor school districts, they are missing the big picture – a troublesome trait for a governor. Furthermore by equating education policy with only K-12 concerns, our candidates our neglecting our state’s institutions of higher education and failing understand their essential role in the promotion of economic vitality of all citizens.