COLUMBIA — If the conditions in one South Carolina school were poor enough to draw President Barack Obama's attention, one state senator said it's high time for Gov. Mark Sanford to pay it a visit.
Senate Minority Leader John Land of Manning, a frequent critic of the Republican governor, said Thursday that Sanford owes it to eighth-grader Ty'Sheoma Bethea and her classmates to see the conditions at J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon for himself.
Ty'Sheoma stood next to first lady Michelle Obama in Washington for the president's address Tuesday after she wrote a letter that asked Congress to send money to fix schools such as hers.
Sanford, meanwhile, has been on the national television circuit to tell the world all the reasons why he believes the $787 billion federal stimulus package is a terrible mistake. The governor still is deciding whether to accept the money available to South Carolina, although the Legislature could take the money if Sanford does not.
Land thanked Ty'Sheoma for helping share with the world the problems faced by South Carolina schools, especially rural ones.
"Sanford needs to cut back on his national travel schedule and look within his own state at the problems that can be addressed with recovery dollars from the federal government," Land said.
Sanford's press secretary Joel Sawyer explained that the governor is very tuned-in to the problems in the public schools, and has spent his tenure in office highlighting the issues and pushing for change.
Sanford wants to give parents the option of sending their children to private schools by providing tax credits or vouchers toward tuition. Critics say his plan takes away public money that could be used to improve public schools.
Sawyer said, "The governor has both visited and guest taught at dozens of schools throughout the state, not only in his time as governor but while he was in Congress as well."
"He's visited schools in cities such as North Charleston and Greenville and in rural counties such as Allendale and Marion alike. As such, he's acutely aware that the educational challenges faced by this state go well beyond Dillon County."
Choice that extends to private schools empowers parents and students to find an education setting that works best for them, Sawyer said.
"It's very interesting to hear this coming from Senator Land, as hard as he's fought against these kinds of changes that we believe would have a positive and lasting impact on education in our state," Sawyer said.
The last governor to tour the Dillon school was Jim Hodges, who served from 1999 to 2003.
Senate Minority Leader John Land, D-Manning, said that if J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon was downtrodden enough to attract a visit from Barack Obama during his presidential campaign, then Republican Gov. Mark Sanford should stop by as well.×