The leader of South Carolina’s largest teachers association is running for state schools chief.
Kathy Maness, a former educator and current executive director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association, confirmed Thursday she’s running for state superintendent of education.
Maness, who has been raising money for about the past month, told The State she would formally announce her candidacy Monday in Lexington. She said her experience as a parent, classroom teacher and leader of an organization with thousands of educator members has prepared her for the job.
“My whole adult life has been working for parents, for teachers and for students,” Maness said. “We’re at a turning point and we need to get education in South Carolina headed in the right direction. We need somebody who understands what it’s like to have children and to teach children in our South Carolina public schools.”
Maness said as the mother of three children, the youngest of whom recently graduated from River Bluff High School in Lexington, she understands that no two children are alike and that all need individualized attention to succeed.
“My oldest was gifted and talented, my middle child was right down the middle and my youngest was a special ed student,” she said. “So as a parent, I saw all three different types of children and I have the ability to advocate for all types of our children.”
Maness, who is running as a Republican, said as education superintendent she would focus on recruiting and retaining quality teachers to help stem the state’s teacher shortage, work to expand school choice and prioritize increasing school safety. As part of her platform to attract more educators, she supports raising teacher pay, allowing teachers more unencumbered planning time and reducing onerous evaluative paperwork requirements.
“We’ve gotta make education and being a teacher a priority again” Maness said. “We’ve gotta make it easier for our teachers to do what they want to do, and that is teach those children every day.”
The longtime Lexington town councilwoman and immediate past president of the National League of Cities enters a wide open race to replace outgoing schools Superintendent Molly Spearman, who announced last year she would not seek a third term.
Maness joins Ellen Weaver, president and CEO of the Palmetto Promise Institute and chairman of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, and Kizzi Staley Gibson, a Lexington County educator, as candidates vying for the state’s top schools post.
She began her career in the classroom, teaching third grade at Erwin Elementary in Lancaster County before joining the Palmetto State Teachers Association as a staff member in 1993. Maness has been the group’s executive director for nearly two decades and said she has permission from its board to remain in that role throughout her campaign.
She is a University of South Carolina graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in early childhood education from the state’s flagship university. She also holds a certification in education administration from Winthrop University.
Maness has raised about $11,000 since the beginning of December, according to online campaign finance records. By comparison, Weaver has raised more than $127,000 and Gibson has picked up a little over $8,000 in campaign cash.