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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Tattered Tenenbaum Set For Defeat In 2006
Jimmy Moore
March 23, 2005

I'm going to start calling South Carolina Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum the Energizer Bunny.  No matter how awful the performance of our public schools gets in this state, she keeps going and going and going as if we provide the best education in the nation.  Despite overwhelming evidence that shows South Carolina is at the bottom in education, Tenenbaum acts as if nothing is wrong with education in the Palmetto state.

And now she has announced her intentions of running for reelection in 2006 to her current post.  Can you believe the gall of this woman?!

Tenenbaum will be conducting a fundraising reception to kickoff her campaign on Thursday, April 7, 2005 from 6-8pm at the home of one of her supporters in Columbia.  The price to attend ranges from $100-$3500, depending on whether you are a Guest ($100), Friend ($250), Patron ($500), Host ($1000) or Sponsor ($3500).

No doubt Tenenbaum is still licking her wounds from the walloping she took last year in the U.S. Senate race against Republican Jim DeMint.  Her aspirations to attain higher office and to flex the political muscle that so many in the Democratic Party in South Carolina thought she had was exposed and shredded during that campaign.  Even still, she's still ticking away.

Interestingly, some are still calling for Tenenbaum to challenge Gov. Mark Sanford, whose reform agenda is getting him nationwide attention especially in the area of school choice.  With tort reform passed and government restructuring being debated in the state legislature along with education reform, Gov. Sanford has set himself up very well for gubernatorial reelection in 2006.  In fact, some are even considering Sanford as a possible presidential or vice-presidential candidate in 2008.  If the school choice bill passes, then that possibility could certainly become a reality.

But first things first.  Tenenbaum is setting her campaign up as a public school vs. private school battle.  In her press release regarding her reelection campaign, Tenenbaum said she has a "great deal of work to do to improve our schools" and asserts the "unproven, unaccountable, and unaffordable back-door voucher bill" (her distortion of the bill also known as Put Parents in Charge) is not the answer.

Then what is the answer, Ms. Tenenbaum?  It amazes me that she can tell the people of South Carolina with a straight face that there is nothing wrong with education in South Carolina and would prefer to leave things just the way they are.  While she admits improvements are needed, she has not offered any solutions to counter the incredibly popular school choice options being offered by Gov. Sanford and many courageous Republican lawmakers in Columbia.  Instead, she simply wants to throw even more money at the education monster to make things better.

Money is not the answer because education expenditures keep going up while performance keeps going down.  Making better use of the resources entrusted to education is what Ms. Tenenbaum and her crew should be doing rather than blaming Republicans of wanting to rob public schools of their money to pay for private schools.

And the scare tactics have already begun from Tenenbaum who warns that passing Put Parents in Charge into law "would defund and dismantle our public school system."  These are the same old arguments that have been repeated over and over again and South Carolinians are frankly tired of it.  They saw it in Tenebaum's failed U.S. Senate campaign and apparently they're gonna see it again in her state Secretary of Education reelection bid in 2006.

But the Republicans need to have a viable candidate to step up to the plate to challenge Tenenbaum.  Yet it needs to be a serious challenger who can clearly articulate why school choice is better than the status quo.  If the state Republican Party has not already been working on this for the past few years, then shame on them.  This post is arguably one of the most important constitutional offices in South Carolina besides governor.  Republicans cannot afford to put a lesser candidate on the ballot against Tenenbaum like we did in 2002.  Who's it going to be, Republicans?  Is there not a consensus education candidate who can step forward to take on Tenenbaum?!

Of course, this could be a moot point if the South Carolina Senate passes a bill that would allow voters to choose whether future governors can appoint their own state education superintendents.  The state House has already passed this bill and Gov. Sanford has said he will sign it into law if it reaches his desk. 

And Sanford admitted on The Ralph Bristol Show on 1330/950AM WORD radio on Monday that he would not select Tenenbaum to the post if he was given this power after the 2006 election because her philosophy on education is the polar opposite of what he believes.  Gee, that's a surprise!

So, Tenenbaum needs to choose what she is going to do:  make a run for reelection to state Superintendent of Education or spend the rest of her waning political capital in a run against Sanford.  The latter is still a likely scenario since education has become a hotly debated topic over the past couple of years.

But if (and when) she loses to Sanford, her political career is over.  I think she will run for reelection as state education superintendent and make her case to the voters why she should remain in that post.  It is entirely possible that she convinces them to keep her in office, but they simultaneously vote to allow the governor to appoint someone else to that post. 

That means Tenenbaum has a lot of convincing to do between now and November 2006 to get voters to support her and oppose the government restructuring referendum.  The hysteria that she and the Democratic Party will create over this will certainly be entertaining to watch as the 2006 election draws closer.

In the meantime, the Energizer Bunny will keep going and going and going as if nothing is wrong with education in South Carolina.  I think the voters of South Carolina need to send a wake-up call to Ms. Tenenbaum.  She must be held accountable for her complacency with the poor way in which our children are being educated in this state.  And she will.

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