COLUMBIA — A Pendleton educator who ran for state schools chief in 2010 and lost in the Republican Party primary is seeking the seat again.
Gary Burgess, 56, will announce he is running for the GOP nomination for state superintendent of education at a public event on Martin Luther King Day.
If King were alive today, he would consider education a civil right, Burgess said Friday.
It is “significant to send a message across the state that poor kids can learn,” said Burgess, a self-described fiscal conservative who picked a historically black school to make his announcement. “All kids can learn, and poverty should not be an excuse for saying we can’t educate kids.”
Burgess joins two Democrats – state Rep. Mike Anthony of Union and Montrio Belton of Fort Mill – in the race for the state’s top education post.
First-term Republican Superintendent Mick Zais is not seeking re-election, leaving the Republican field wide open. Others have expressed interest in the seat, including two Republican state representatives, but have not committed.
Burgess is on the Anderson County school board and was a member of Zais’ transition team after he was elected in 2010.
Burgess grew up in Inman, attending public schools. He went on to study at Wofford College, Converse College and the University of South Carolina, earning master’s and doctoral degrees in education.
He has been a teacher, principal and superintendent in S.C. public schools and an adjunct college professor.
In 2009, Burgess was found not guilty on a charge that he “solicited an immoral act” from a police officer in an Anderson park, according to media reports. He later sued the city of Anderson. That case is pending.
Burgess also said he sued and settled two lawsuits with the state Education Department and Hampton 2 school district for actions taken against him after the solicitation charge.
The owner of a research and education-consulting business, Burgess said he decided to run for superintendent after talking with Zais about the field of candidates.
Burgess placed fourth among six candidates in the 2010 GOP primary for state superintendent.