Courtesy EllenForEducation.com

It’s completely understandable why Ellen Weaver and her campaign for state superintendent of education are not really answering key questions about her qualifications: They don’t want anybody to talk about it.

Weaver, a longtime GOP stalwart and policy wonk, is running to be the state’s top education official, but she doesn’t have any classroom experience. State law doesn’t absolutely require it, but in 2018, the Republican-controlled General Assembly added a requirement for the state superintendent must have “the minimum of a master’s degree and substantive and broad-based experience in the field of public education including, but not limited to, service as a classroom teacher, principal, other school or school district administrator, school district superintendent, or other education policy making body at either the state or local level or any combination of them” or “the minimum of a master’s degree and substantive and broad-based experience in operational and financial management in any field of expertise including, but not limited to, finance, economics, accounting, law or business.”

The requirement was part of a legislative package that assumed passage of a constitutional referendum to make the office become appointed, not elected. The referendum failed, but for some reason, lawmakers enacted the qualification regardless of the passage of the referendum.

During the 2022 GOP primary campaign, Weaver said she would meet the new requirement to have the master’s degree. She’s enrolled in a program in April at her alma mater, conservative Bob Jones University, to get a master’s degree in educational leadership.

That led one wag to observe, “I don’t know anybody who knew this far in advance they would be awarded a degree. Do you know at the beginning of a program you’re going to graduate?”

The degree from Bob Jones which requires completion of 11 courses of three credit hours each.  It reportedly usually takes a year or year and a half to complete. Required classes include:  

  • EAS 660: Foundations of Leadership
  • EAS 663: School Business Management
  • EAS 670: Pupil Personnel Services
  • EAS 676: Personnel Administration & Supervision 
  • EAS 678: Organizational Leadership
  • EAS 695: Educational Leadership Action Research Project
  • Ed 605: History & Philosophy of Education
  • Ed 638: Curriculum Development & Design
  • Ed 661: Assessment of Learning 
  • Ed 667: Technology in Education
  • Ed 690: Research in Education

We asked Weaver for information on the progress she’s having with the degree. Among the questions we asked: 

  1. Which classes have you completed?  Please provide the class numbers.
  2. Which classes are you currently working on?
  3. Are there any classes for which you got credit without actually having to take them?  If so, which were they and did they cost anything?
  4. When do you anticipate finishing the required coursework and receiving the degree?
  5. What happens if you don’t finish the coursework or the degree by election day or, if you win, if it’s not done by the time that a state superintendent would be sworn in?  
  6. Are you, your campaign or the Republican Party currently preparing any legal challenge to the GOP-backed law requiring a master’s degree for superintendent candidates?

We got this reply from Robert D. Cathcart III, Weaver’s communications director: “Please find our on the record statement below: ‘Ms. Weaver is on track to earn her Master’s degree by mid-October.’”

Thanks, Robert. That’s not too helpful. Bob Jones University spokesman Randy Page said Friday he couldn’t answer all of the questions due to privacy regulations, but confirmed Weaver is in the graduate online degree program. “BJU does not currently award credit through prior learning assessment,” he said. 

This reticence is, quite frankly, an affront to all South Carolina voters. When candidates run for public office, they willingly inject themselves into public debate and scrutiny. By not providing details of her qualifications on a degree that she just started, Weaver’s campaign is simply thumbing its nose to voters and saying, “Trust me.”  

Perhaps voters should trust, but in today’s combative political environment regarding truth, they also should verify. Weaver’s campaign is avoiding verification of qualifications because she wants to control her message, which is sure to come in the fall with slick television ads and internet persuasion campaigns.  

Put pressure on Weaver to share specific progress on her master’s degree. Demand that she answer questions. If she won’t give you information you need to make an informed decision on whether she should hold the job, you should look for another candidate.

This story also appeared in Statehouse Report.

Andy Brack  is editor and publisher the Charleston City Paper and Statehouse Report.  Have a comment? Send to: feedback@charlestoncitypaper.com.


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