This is the text of a speech given by GCDP Chair and childhood development and education researcher Amanda McDougald Scott in support of Lisa Ellis’s candidacy for state School Superintendent.
By Amanda McDougald Scott
Good afternoon and happy Sunday!
I am Dr. Amanda McDougald Scott, Chair of the Greenville County Democratic Party, Director of Artemis Consulting, parent, wife, and believer in change for the better here in South Carolina.
Thank you for coming to support the Young Democrats of Greenville County and Lisa Ellis, our next Superintendent of Education for South Carolina!!
Thank you to the Young Democrats for putting this event together, and for each of you for all of the work you have already done and will continue to do from now until November to make sure that Lisa Ellis wins this election in a landslide!
Every year, around election time, we hear about how this year’s election is the most important. We’ve grown weary of hearing this, bu I’m here to tell you: extremists on the other side are laser-focused on destroying our democracy.
And maybe we don’t always equate school boards and public education with preserving our freedoms and democracy, but ensuring that we have an educated population, with equitable access to a quality, free public education is key to the fabric of a democracy.
The national effort to replace responsible school leadership with those more interested in manufactured outrage has several effects:
- Subverting the purpose of the school board members to govern schools
- Promoting fear and eschewing science and facts
- Seeking to be exclusive—not diverse, equitable, or inclusive
- Threatening our democracy.
Good governance means putting people and practices over politics. It means policy that is based on facts and inclusiveness.
Responsible governance, not dogma.
We must be proactive in our solutions for a better school system beginning in Greenville County and throughout South Carolina.
We can start with rejecting the minimally adequate standards for public education set forth in our state constitution. We must strive to get out of the bottom 10 states in public education.
As an early childhood and child care researcher, I loudly advocate for making sure that we start with quality enrichment for children as soon as they are born. We must continue this emphasis throughout early childhood (age 8) and beyond, making sure that our high school graduates are ready for work, trade school, or higher education.
I must emphasize the importance of early childhood in South Carolina. This isn’t just a child and family issue. It’s economic. The only solution to providing the economic support that is needed here in South Carolina, and giving our children a bright start in life is making sure that people understand that those early years are not a blank slate.
Children are born ready to learn, and they need developmentally appropriate, quality environments.
Play should be prioritized over screen time.
Children should have adequate access to recess.
Parents should be allowed to work their jobs with the peace of mind that their children are safe in quality environments so that they make their families more financially stable, and enable them to be less stressed and tired at the end of the work day. That also allows them to be present with their children when they are home, so they can provide that important interaction between loving parents and children that children’s developing brains so desperately need.
This support comes from recognizing that child care workers are highly trained and skilled professionals. We must fully fund child care from birth so that our state has a fighting chance at equity and economic stability both now and in the future.
After all, kindergarten readiness is workforce readiness.
I am bringing this up in part today because I am also disappointed that yet again, our country has put children, families, and our workforce on the back burner when they cut support for early childhood education and care out of the Inflation Reduction Act.
I hoped that the federal guidance and finances would push South Carolina to provide the support that early childhood so desperately needs.
Maybe we can have that hope again when Lisa Ellis is elected.
With Lisa Ellis we can improve the public education in South Carolina in order to serve our children and families by improving our curriculum and school-day schedule to make them developmentally appropriate.
And using the resources that already exist here in the United States to do so.
The OECD Programme for International Student Assessments indicate that United States continues to underperform in comparison to other countries like Canada, Singapore, Finland, and others – especially in math. Of these countries, several educators in South Carolina have visited Finland over the past few years to see what they are doing, especially regarding early childhood, that is putting their students ahead of US students.
These educators have been told that Finland is using education research that was conducted here in the United States to provide a quality education system.
Finnish students have play-based learning, outdoor time, 50 minutes of recess, little homework, and one standardized test a year and their students outperform those in the United States.
Further, the Stanford Social Innovation Review states that teaching in Finland is a widely respected profession, and thus, they are given the trust and autonomy they need to do their jobs. Teachers’ voices are also at the table when policy discussions are being made.
This is why it is also important to elect a teacher to do the job of the State Superintendent of Education. Someone who has been listening to the voices of teachers for years, and organized SC for Ed so that teachers’ voices can be elevated where policy decisions are being made.
Let’s do our part to spread the word about Lisa Ellis here in Greenville County so we first keep public education in South Carolina and then get to the work of:
- Improving public education in South Carolina
- Making South Carolina a state that people know that they can confidently start or bring families into — with the knowledge that our education system will provide for the present and future.
- Implementing best practices and research for education — beginning when children are born.
- Preserving our democracy.
Going back to the beginning of my speech, I have to say it: This is one of the most important elections of our lifetime.
Thank you for your time…let’s do this!