Featured Image: The Post and Courier
In a year full of controversy surrounding the Palmetto State’s education system, Governor McMaster has taken a step in the right direction.
On Wednesday, August 7, McMaster announced his decision to create a new position that will bridge the gap between the General Assembly and his office with regards to education policy. The long-time director of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee (EOC), Melanie Barton, will be the first to hold the position of Senior Education Adviser to the Governor, starting next month on Sept. 3.
Barton will work to push forward ideas and transform the current status of the education system after years of disconnect between the Governor’s office and General Assembly. The two have been unable to reach a decision on the best path to fixing the state’s broken system, a problem which Barton hopes to combat.
“It gives more weight to the whole education debate. It will no longer be a legislative debate. It’s the executive branch, the Legislature all working together. I see it as a way to bridge the two bodies and the governor together for a single focus,” Barton told The Post and Courier. “That’s going to be my mission — how do we get everybody focused together? I’m totally committed to trying to help (McMaster) get the changes needed.”
In Barton’s role as Director of the EOC, she reported to a board that included legislators of both parties, business people and educators. The role required Barton to present accurate data on student performance and push an agenda for better education throughout the state, all while staying politically neutral and preserving a well-respected reputation in the General Assembly. This reputation among lawmakers played a large role in McMaster choosing her for the job.
“She was the pie in the sky, the holy grail and he was able to hire her,” Brian Symmes, McMaster’s spokesman told The Post and Courier.
At the beginning of the year, both McMaster and legislative leaders pledged to make finding a solution to the problems within the education system a top priority. In March, a bill passed in the House that would have made essential changes, including increasing teacher salaries and creating a $100 million fund to help bring businesses to places where schools are poor and struggling. Unfortunately, the bill has been largely torn apart in the Senate and won’t be back up for debate until the Legislature resumes in January 2020.
Barton hopes to work with both the governor’s office and the Legislature to find a solution to the education problem in South Carolina. The problems are still awaiting tangible, effective solutions, but the hiring of Barton is a step in the right direction for not only Governor McMaster’s office but the General Assembly as well.