The initial reaction to the State Board of Education's decision to elect a home-schooling mom as its next chairwoman at times has bordered on hysteria.
We admit we have some concerns about the selection of someone who supports vouchers and campaigned so actively against the election of the education superintendent with whom the board should work closely. But while the way Kristin Maguire has chosen to educate her own children does raise questions about her commitment to public education, that alone should not disqualify her from the position.
Ms. Maguire is by all accounts a smart, hardworking member of the board. ...
Still, Ms. Maguire's election reminds us of a question that doesn't get asked nearly as often as it should: Why, exactly, is it that we have a State Board of Education? ...
To the extent that the board serves a purpose, it's to diffuse the accountability of the elected education superintendent -- who in turn diffuses the accountability of the elected governor. And those are bad things. Even if we never let the governor appoint the superintendent (and we should), we at least should eliminate the board, and make education policy a bit more accountable to the public.
The sprinkler bill
South Carolina lawmakers need to pass some legislation that expands the use of fire sprinklers in this state. And that legislation should include a requirement that at least some existing buildings be retrofitted with sprinklers. As was proven by last summer's inferno that killed nine Charleston firefighters, older, larger buildings can become deathtraps in a fire. The Legislature needs to heed the lessons of Charleston when it reconvenes next month.
Charleston Sen. Glenn McConnell has pre-filed a bill that would offer tax credits and discounted insurance rates for businesses that install sprinklers in their buildings. ...
It appears the General Assembly is on course to pass some sort of fire sprinkler legislation this session. Legislators should exhaustively explore the feasibility of making some existing buildings -- like the Sofa Super Store in Charleston -- safer by requiring them to be retrofitted with sprinklers.
At the very least, this state's lawmakers need to pass a sprinkler law with teeth.
They cannot fail on this issue like they did in 2004. Lives depend on it.
On the Net: http://www.greenvilleonline.com
The (Charleston) Post and Courier on future of Sofa Super Store fire site, Dec. 19:
Even when the last remnant of the Sofa Super Store has been hauled away, the site will remain the city of Charleston's most emotionally charged. Further, opinions vary widely on what, if anything, should replace the building where nine city of Charleston firemen lost their lives.
For the moment, at least, the question isn't officially before city officials. While the city made an offer for the site after the fire six months ago, Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. tells us that there has been no response. It should be noted that there still are fire-related investigations under way that are expected to be concluded early next year.
Shortly after the horrendous fire, there were numerous proposals on how best to honor the men who died in the store. The mayor was among those who suggested the site be converted into a park. He told us recently that he didn't have a specific idea in mind but was thinking more in terms of a reverential space adjacent to a building such as a fire station or fire training facility. The one use he would strongly oppose, he said, is another commercial building on the site.
The mayor emphasizes that "we want the community to help us determine what should be there. You can ask 10 people and get 10 different answers. We are committed to an open process." ...
Clearly, even elected officials hold views that are miles apart. No issue is more demanding of community input and consensus.
On the Net: http://www.charleston.net/editorial/
(Spartanburg) Herald Journal on state water board, Dec. 19:
The drought plaguing the Southeast should convince the General Assembly to follow through on a proposal to establish a statewide water plan and form a South Carolina water board to implement that plan.
Water shortages are growing severe. The city of Atlanta is already making plans to have water trucked into the city and distributed in bottles and tanks when the city's supply runs dry. Other cities in Georgia and North Carolina are looking at supplies that may run out in just a couple of months.
South Carolina has to plan for its own shortages and compete with Georgia and North Carolina for scarce resources. The two Carolinas are already involved in a legal battle over water in the Catawba River. Another dispute over the Savannah River is likely.
The state would be in a better position to protect its interests if it had a state water board that could help explain and defend the state's need for its resources and how each river system affects the state's water plan. ...
The creation of a state water board was considered in 2002 when a severe drought forced the state into mandatory water use restrictions. But the drought ended that fall, and the issue was forgotten by the time the General Assembly started its next session.
Now two lawmakers from Anderson have introduced a bill establishing a state water board and requiring the development of a comprehensive water management program. Lawmakers should follow through in order to protect the state's resources.
On the Net: http://www.goupstate.com