Education Bureaucrats: YOUR money, OUR politics


Q: Who is using public money and positions to fight parents calling for school choice?

A: Seven registered lobbyists and dozens of full-time staffers!

Real School Choice is wildly popular.

Parents in South Carolina know that every child is unique and the one-size-fits-all public schools are leaving thousands of students behind.

In recent weeks hundreds of parents have been advocating Choice at the statehouse; imploring lawmakers to consider expanding school choice options to K-12 education. Many who come to Columbia are surprised to see that high dollar lobbyists and publicists, paid with public money, are already working in the hallways of the Statehouse to fight the Choice legislation.

Even more offensive, some of these taxpayer subsidized politicos are claiming to speak for the parents and children in South Carolina.

Among those fighting to deny low- and middle-income children more equal access to independent school classrooms are the SCEA, SCASA, and SCSBA.

Here is a brief run down of each:

South Carolina Education Association (SCEA)

SCEA Masthead.jpg

The South Carolina affiliate of the far-left National Education Association (NEA) teacher union, the SCEA is infamous in the Palmetto State for using public money (in the form of teachers’ and bureaucrats’ dues) for direct cash “donations” to their favored politicians. Their pay-to-play style of politics also includes close relationships with high-dollar education contractors who profit from South Carolina’s stagnant and failing public schools.

When it comes to real school choice for parents, the SCEA company line is crystal clear: “No!” Their website is littered with political platitudes and inaccuracies about School Choice legislation. Sheila C. Gallagher carries the union banner defaming choice for parents and insisting;

“the General Assembly must concentrate on listening to the public school administrators, teachers and education support professionals who work every day to make our public schools great for every student.”

In other words – Ignore the wishes of parents!

Gallagher, like the SCEA’s small army of paid lobbyists (including Richard Davis, Joanie Lawson, Heather Smith, and Aaron Wallace) have no interest in answering to the taxpayers that fund them. They are narrowly committed to perpetuating a vast and failing public school system, even when it has clearly failed to deliver on its promises. They have even used tax dollars to deny classroom options for severely handicapped children. The SCEA’s core policy is “system over student.”

South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA)


SCASA is a group of teachers administrators who believe that they are smarter than parents. Sitting in their plush offices, stockpiling public money, and clamoring for ever-greater funding, members and leadership of the Administrators Association ignore the obvious fact that higher spending has not translated into improved student achievement in public schools.

Their paid power-brokers lobbying with tax money at the Statehouse include Elizabeth Phibbs, as well as eight full time staffers led by Molly Spearman and Ronnie Townsend.

South Carolina School Boards Association (SCSBA),


The School Boards Association is no stranger to controversy. From machine style political turnout drives (thinly veiled as non-partisan “registrations“) to member Superintendents directly telling their employees how to vote, the politically elected school board members use public resources to pursue a partisan political agenda.

The actual facts of how school choice will save public money (and expand their own public school spending) simply don’t matter to SCSBA.

Taxpayer subsidized lobbyists hired by the SCSBA include Damon Jeter and Scott Price. Full time staff include Debbie “doesn’t understand marginal costs” Elmore and over 30 other employees.

Together, these three groups form an unbelievably self-righteous, taxpayer-subsidized dog and pony show of anti-reform antics. Coddling the failed status quo, and expecting elected officials to act as default “yes” men/women for their ploys is the name of the game.

Like anchors sunk deep into the muck of fiscal irresponsibility and academic failure, groups like SCASA, SCEA and SCSBA refuse to let South Carolina move forward.

Lawmakers, long used to seeing these home-grown special interests at home in the halls of power, need to stand up and make their priorities known to families in their districts: Is it going to be children or bureaucrats? It can never be both.


11 responses to “Education Bureaucrats: YOUR money, OUR politics

  1. Great post.
    You failed to mention all the money spent by the Department of Education itself; all the bilge put out by Jim Foster (so-called “publicist”) and all the political consulting by Z. Stokes that is paid for by the taxpayers!

  2. I suppose there is some small need for different groups to help school boards and administrators. Judging from what we see happening on school boards and with many administrators, it does not put these groups ( SCASA SCSBA) in a very good light. Maybe if the system were effective and efficient this would not strike me as so wrong, but it does.

  3. Do It Yourself

    Are you going to give these professionals the help they need? No! You want to point at failures, but you don’t want to help them improve.

  4. 7 lobbyists seems pretty excessive. DIY, the amount of time and money spent to lobby against what many taxpayers want smacks more of taking advantage than of helping.

  5. In future reports please differentiate between dues paid by members in these groups and what funds may be budgeted directly by a public agency. If a school board appropriates direct funding for a group that would indeed be taxpayer money. If a school board member pays dues to one of these groups that is NOT taxpayer money; if it came from their salary it is their money, not the taxpayers.

  6. Calhoun Fawls

    Hey, at least spell RONNY Townsend’s name right. I guess that second rate private school education is showing. Do your freaking homework.

    Further, how is a single mom making $30,000 going to be able to send her kid to private school with the current legislation?

    Didn’t the government issue regulations for private colleges who took public money? Aren’t we gonna end up with government ran private schools? Is that what you want? More big government?

    Come on, you are paid as well as the people you go after if not better and you know what you advocate is an illusion, just like the status quo.

    A pox on both your houses. Both sides are well paid and don’t really give a damn about parents or children. It is all about the money and making sure you both continued to get paid. Put yourself in the photo. You have misled the working families of this state as much as them if not more.

  7. Exactly, Steve.

    This bit about the SCEA is absurd. That is, if I am correct that SCEA dues are paid by the educators themselves. Is “The Voice” saying that because the taxpayers pay the salaries of teachers, the taxpayers (or SCRG) should be able to determine how those teachers spend their money after they’ve cashed their checks?

    Would it be even remotely Constitutional to restrict teachers from spending money they’ve been paid (even if by the public) on dues to organization that speaks out in their interests?

    Now, this isn’t an argument to say that SCEA is always right or whatever….But that isn’t the point — the point’s to say that, to my knowledge, the SCEA isn’t operating with public money.

    I don’t know where SCASA or SCSBA dues come from. In the case of the school boards, though, I don’t think it’s a lot different from the many elected officials who are allowed to spend a portion of taxpayer money on communications and marketing (i.e. promoting their agenda).

  8. Steve – I’ll bet you can’t find one school district in this state that doesn’t pay the dues to the SCSBA on behalf of the elected boards. I’ll bet you that the dues are not cheap. They even pay the expenses to the annual conference in Hilton Head. I have been told that the SC State Board of Education doesn’t pay annual dues to NASBE for their lobbying efforts in Washington, but I’m not sure. If they don’t – kudos to them!

    I can’t believe the article left out the Palmetto State Teachers Association. They are just as bad.

    All of these organizations and a huge part of the problem with education reform.

  9. Calhoun Fawls – After serving for years in the South Carolina House, Representative Townsend’s farewell resolution spells his name as R-O-N-N-I-E.

    Check it out:

  10. i think some folks are missing the point…

    thousands of kids are trapped in failing and under-performing public schools and you want to argue if the small army of folks blocking reform are taxpayer PAID or just taxpayer SUBSIDIZED

    totally misses the point, and then you’all wonder why all the mad parents showed up at the committee meeting.

  11. Me thinks RONNY Townsend’s name is spelled right on his check (which is the point) ha ha!

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