During my time as Superintendent, I’ve visited over 225 schools, in every county in South Carolina.

Across the state, education leaders repeatedly tell me, “If we had the same flexibility as a public charter school, we could be more effective.” I agree with them and support flexibility for school districts so they can make decisions that are best for their diverse communities. I do not advocate increasing class sizes (“Educators concerned about state superintendent’s proposals”). Here are the facts.

The Aiken Standard inaccurately claims that the “S.C. General Assembly has annually authorized school districts to receive waivers that are similar to Zais’ proposals.” This is incorrect. The General Assembly suspended statewide staffing ratios more than four years ago, leaving it up to school districts to determine what works best for their schools. There is no waiver process or application. The General Assembly provided a streamlined process where superintendents and school boards can make immediate decisions, providing them with much-needed flexibility and fostering innovation in the classroom.

To hear the hysterical claims of some, one would think there would be classes with 50 students if the regulation changed. The staffing-level regulation in fact has been suspended since 2009.

Since then, the S.C. Department of Education has not received a single complaint about school districts misusing this authority. What the General Assembly decided then, and what still makes sense today, is that greater flexibility empowers our communities to organize schools in ways that best meet the needs of their students. School boards and the superintendents they hire should be empowered to establish appropriate staffing levels. One-size-fits-all edicts and mandates from Columbia are not helpful to our education leaders.

The idea that we can’t trust school boards and superintendents and that innovation therefore should only come from Columbia prevents us from moving our classrooms into the 21st Century. Let’s get beyond the misinformation and turn our attention instead to advancing flexibility in districts and promoting innovation in the classroom.

Mick Zais

S.C. Superintendent of Education