Most of the discussion about government restructuring continues to center around the creation of a Cabinet-level Department of Administration to supplant South Carolina’s outmoded Budget and Control Board. But while that long-discussed idea gets hashed and rehashed, a Senate panel has actually advanced a major governance change: giving the governor the authority to appoint the state superintendent of education.
Under the proposal, the voters would decide the issue in a statewide referendum, much as they did last year’s initiative to have the governor and lieutenant governor run on a ticket.
The success of that ballot measure encourages hope that the governor’s executive authority could be further strengthened, and for many of the same reasons — if the voters actually get a chance to consider the matter.
The governor and his running mate should have a shared vision about government, so that if the lieutenant governor actually has to step in there won’t be major shifts in policy. Under the existing system, the governor and lieutenant governor can belong to different political parties. Indeed, they have several times in recent state history.
Expanding the governor’s Cabinet to include the education superintendent would similarly provide for a more coherent system of governance. Public education is one of the major responsibilities of state government, and its greatest budget expense. Yet the state’s chief executive has little input or oversight under the current system.
The governor should be able to balance policy and assets in a meaningful way across a larger spectrum of state government. And that should include public education.
The current superintendent, Mick Zais, endorses the idea.
The proposal in the Senate would provide for a vote in the 2014 general election, and if approved, the governor would have the authority to make the appointment in 2018. That is the same timetable set for the change in the election of the lieutenant governor.
Because it requires a constitutional amendment, the proposal has to be approved by the voters.
The Legislature should be willing to allow the voters to hear the debate on the issue and make a reasoned decision at the polls.
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