Ellis (left) and Andrews discussed the impact of public policy on children | Photo by Chelsea Grinstead

Bells tolled Saturday afternoon as more than 40 people filed into the Unitarian Church in downtown Charleston to hear two women running major South Carolina campaigns discuss how public policy impacts children. 

Dr. Annie Andrews, the Democratic candidate in the 1st Congressional District, joined Lisa Ellis, the Democratic candidate for South Carolina superintendent,  Lisa Ellis in a talk about the effects of deficit funding on public education, health care access, gun safety and the politicalization of issues facing the education system. Downtown bookstore Buxton Books hosted the talk along with the Charleston City Paper

Ellis, who’s been an educator for 22 years, said she founded the nonprofit SC for Ed four years ago when she realized teachers had no real voice in legislative policy. 

“From a school point of view, society’s problems walk into our doors every day,” Ellis said. “We’re talking about creating an equitable education, a high-quality education and our students need to be healthy and have the resources they need to be able to stay in school.”  

Andrews, an MUSC pediatrician and gun violence prevention researcher, said she has cared for too many sick kids whose parents didn’t know whether they could afford their child’s illness. She emphasized she has treated far too many children with gunshot wounds. 

“Every child deserves access to a quality education regardless of zip code,” Andrews said. “We need a health care system that centers on patients, not drug companies and insurance companies. And certainly every child deserves to grow up where gun violence is not the leading cause of death that it is for children in this country today.”

Sydney Van Bulck of West Ashley attended the talk yesterday. She is running for a seat on the Charleston County School Board of trustees after 12 years of teaching at W.B. Goodwin Elementary School. 

“It’s sad that we’ve gotten to a place where educators have to run,” Van Bulck said. “But now, because we have seen firsthand how bad policies affect children in schools, educators are feeling emboldened and empowered to run. We are the only people that understand what it takes to have a successful school and what students need to be successful in the classroom.”

Ellis said she considers banning books or dealing with  critical race theory to be a distraction from larger, more integral national discussions in regard to education and student health.

“I think we have to have very honest conversations: When you look at what’s going on across the nation, in particular in South Carolina, there’s a request for the dismantlement of public education,” Ellis said. “There’s nothing more infuriating than creating a false narrative that hurts children. And that’s what has been happening.”

Andrews said America needed expanded background checks for individuals buying guns and secure gun storage laws in order to protect children. 

“Our elected officials [are] failing to be brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby [for] common sense gun laws that are supported by the vast majority of Americans,” Andrews said.

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