An “education moonshot”

July 26, 2019

Ellen Weaver

Former President & CEO

This week, I was honored to be invited to speak to the Downtown Aiken Rotary, one of the oldest and largest clubs in the state. Education was front and center.

My mission: to pack this massive (and massively important) issue into a digestible 20-minute talk!

We touched on many topics we’ve shared in previous emails, like how South Carolina’s current funding formula drains dollars from classrooms, and the incredible opportunity that proven ideas called for in our H.O.P.E. Plan could unlock for students across our state.

But we also went back to basics with a simple, yet fundamental question: “What IS public education?” Is it a unitary system of school? Is it an educated public?

I believe it is fundamentally a shared value by people on both the left and the right. But sadly, that consensus too often gets lost in the struggle to preserve the power and money of those who run the current business model.

Photo Credit: Dede Biles, Aiken Standard

In a fascinating recent study, Ashley Berner—deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy­—examines the idea of education pluralism: a system in which the government funds and regulates, but does not necessarily provide, public education.

Did you know that the U.S. and our uniform, one-size-fits-all approach to public education delivery is an outlier amongst the world’s democracies? The list of educationally plural systems is long, including the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Belgium, Denmark, Indonesia, Israel, Sweden, and France. But more on this topic another day.

The key point: it is possible to pursue different models of education delivery and still be solidly pro-public education…when public education means achieving our shared value of a well-educated public.

Meaningful progress for South Carolina students will require a commitment to constantly come back to this shared value, as well as a total reframing of our education thinking and conversations to:

  • welcome bold reforms.
  • put students (not systems and programs) at the center of every decision.
  • align inputs (spending) with desired outcomes (student success).

In short: we need an “education moonshot.”

50 years ago this month, America put a man on the moon through vision, hard work, and sheer determination. Our children deserve no less than that same kind of commitment.

Here’s to leaders with the courage to take an “education moonshot” that launches all South Carolina students on the course of achieving their full, God-given potential. We’ll keep fighting toward that end.

Thanks for standing with us.