The transition from "jobs, jobs, jobs" to education reform was a natural for Gov. Nikki Haley. As she recruits businesses to come to South Carolina, the first question she usually is asked is about primary schools in the state.
Gov. Haley says businesses know about the state's anti-union stance, its business-friendly outlook and its generous incentives, but they're concerned about the quality of education here.
With her new K-12 education reform initiative, Mrs. Haley is confident that she will have better answers to those tough questions about the state's schools.
We hope she's right. She certainly has focused on several areas ripe for improvement - literacy, technology, teacher development and teaching poor children who are the most at risk of failure.
Mrs. Haley has determined it will take an impressive sum to get her program under way - an additional $160 million. And she contends that most of the money can come from increased tax revenues.
The governor's biggest challenge might be winning the General Assembly's support for her platform because it comes with a big pricetag and because it is unlikely to be the only reform initiative introduced.
But the proposal received good marks from several legislators - Democrat and Republican - who met with the media to discuss the upcoming session on Thursday. "I welcome the governor to the club," said Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, citing his long-term support for more funding to schools in high poverty areas.
One thing her plan has going for it is that no district would lose money by the reforms and no tax increase is needed. When the legislative session begins next week, members should recognize that improving the quality of education throughout South Carolina is key to the economic and social health of the state. They should commit to giving Gov. Haley's initiative serious consideration.
In short, she is proposing spending $97 million on additional help educating children who live in poverty, $30 million on reading coaches in elementary schools and $29 million to improve Internet and wireless capabilities in schools that are lacking.
Other elements include summer camps, extra help for students whose primary language is not English, training for teachers, streamlining the way schools are funded and increasing money for charter schools in the S.C. Public Charter School District.
Charter schools do need financial help, but it would be a mistake to omit those schools chartered by individual school districts.
It also is a pity that her plan doesn't address the state's clear need to expand kindergarten and early-childhood programs.
Still, if increasing school funding for students who live in poverty results in graduates who are better prepared for the world, Mrs. Haley's plan will have been well worth the expense.
If grades improve because students are getting the help they need to learn to read at grade level, the reform will have addressed a pressing need.
And if students in "poor" schools have the same technology that students in "rich" schools have and are skilled at using it, they will be more attractive in the job market - and the state will be more attractive to businesses.
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