COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — In November, you’ll have a chance to elect the next person in charge of your child’s education for the next four years.

This week, we sit down with the Democratic and Republican candidates for state Superintendent of Education.

Lisa Ellis said she has been teaching for 22 years.

She believes her time in the classroom has prepared her to be the state’s next Superintendent of Education.

“We are really at a critical moment where education can go one of two ways in South Carolina,” Ellis said. “We can continue to fight for it and protect public education and provide a high-quality education for every student in South Carolina. Or we can look at the route of dismantling it.”

She won the Democratic primary in June and is also the Alliance Party candidate for state superintendent. Ellis’ name will appear twice on the ballot this November.

Ellis helped start the grassroots educator group SC For Ed in 2018. The group, now a nonprofit organization, spearheaded the May 2019 rally at the State House where more than 10,000 people pushed for better working conditions for teachers and higher pay.

Ellis said as schools chief she would elevate the ‘teacher voice’.

“I tell legislators that when they put policy in place, I’m the one that has to look the students in the eye and address it there,” Ellis said. “So, I see how the day-to-day policies or under-funding impacts students.”

Ellis stepped away from SC For Ed to focus on her campaign but is still teaching this school year.
According to Ellis, the teacher shortage is the biggest issue facing South Carolina schools. She said she’ll advocate to improve teacher pay and working conditions.

“I think we’ve also got to really address class sizes,” Ellis said.

Ellis said she would work to reduce testing by getting rid of state assessments not required by federal law.

We asked Ellis about what needs to be done to help students bounce back from pandemic-related disruptions.

“We have to recognize that we are dealing with a different group of students because they all have a shared experience of COVID,” Ellis said. “We’ve got to re-calibrate our own ideas of where the student should be because everybody in the entire world is behind academically.”

She said educators have been working on helping students ‘reengage with the world.’ Ellis said the state needs to help address the mental health needs of students and staff.

“If we want to truly address mental health. We have to properly fund public education,” she said. According to Ellis, more funding would help bring in more counselors into schools.

When it comes to school safety, Ellis said there are many issues connected to it.

“We got to talk about that mental health piece and putting systems of support for students who are struggling academically,” Ellis said.

She said another part of school safety is responsible gun ownership by parents.

Earlier this year, the South Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban ‘Critical Race Theory’ (CRT) instruction in K-12 public schools. That bill stalled because it didn’t meet the crossover deadline at the State House.

Ellis said the legislation is unnecessary and educators are teaching the state’s standards. “We created this sort of ghost to get away from what is actually happening in schools,” Ellis said. She said if parents have concerns about something being taught or how it was taught, she would like to speak with the parent and child about the issue.

For more information on Ellis and her campaign click or tap here.

NOTE: Our interview with GOP candidate Ellen Weaver airs Sept. 15th.

You can watch our full one-on-one interview with Ellis below: