COLUMBIA - Gubernatorial candidate Tom Ervin hits on one of the campaign season's hottest topics - education - in the newest statewide television advertisement his campaign rolled out Wednesday.

The ad is part of a total $2 million advertising buy as the independent candidate, a former judge and S.C. House member, seeks to gain name recognition and roll out platform positions against his main two opponents, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and Democratic Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden.

In the ad, Ervin rails against the unpopular Common Core federal education standards and focuses on a few planks of a statewide education plan, access to pre-kindergarten, school choice and consistent college tuition.

"South Carolinians should be outraged that we spend $6,000 more per inmate than we do per student in our state," Ervin said in a statement. "Parents aren't given options or allowed input on their child's education. We should not be surprised that test scores continue to drop, and we lack the highly skilled workforce needed for quality jobs. We can do better for our kids by ensuring every child has access to pre-K, families have a choice in schools, and we lock in tuition for college freshmen. Finally, let me be crystal clear since the governor hasn't - we need common sense not Common Core."

Under his plan, Ervin would ensure that college freshmen have the same tuition rate until they graduate.

Sheheen rolled out his own education plan last week, focusing on expanding kindergarten for four-year-olds, smaller class sizes and better pay for teachers. Sheheen has called the debate over Common Core a distraction from the real solutions on which leaders should be focused.

Haley has advocated against Common Core and backed and signed a bill that would replace the Common Core standards. But with little time to re-write the state standards this year, there is much debate about how different the new standards will be.

Haley also successfully pushed more dollars for 4-year-old kindergarten and more money for rural public schools during the last legislative session.

The election is Nov. 4.

Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837.