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Equity & Diversity

Why One State Schools Chief Backs Donald Trump, Despite Her Concerns

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 20, 2016 2 min read
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has virtually neglected education issues so far in this election campaign—but South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman knows exactly why she wants Trump to be the next president.

“Education is better handled at the local level,” Spearman, a Republican elected in 2014, said in a Wednesday interview outside a South Carolina delegation breakfast at the Republican National Convention. “I look forward to having more flexibility, more support from the president, for that idea.”

Trump has indicated a fondness for local school boards. But he also said at one point this year that education is one of the top-three priorities for the federal government. It’s not clear how, or if, he’d reconcile those two positions.

Spearman has experience in schools at various levels. In addition to her current position, she’s served as deputy superintendent of the state education department, executive director of the state school administrators association, as an assistant principal, and as a music teacher. She also served as a GOP state lawmaker.

Last year, the state became the second to officially adopt new standards to replace the Common Core State Standards, a move Spearman supported, although the new standards in many ways are quite similar to the common core.

Her support for Trump, however, doesn’t mean she supports everything has said during the campaign. We asked her if she was concerned about the way Trump speaks about certain groups, and the opinion that some students in particular may be made to feel unsafe by some of his language. She responded by saying:

“If I had a chance to speak to Mr. Trump personally, I would ask him to really consider now [that] all eyes are on him, including the eyes of our children, and I would ask him to consider to tone his rhetoric down a bit. ... But again, I think folks that I know who have met him believe that there’s a better man there. I think he does understand.”

An unscientific survey released earlier this year by the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that some teachers are worried about a trickle-down effect in schools from Trump’s remarks on the campaign trail on immigrant and Muslim students.

Spearman also weighed in on why she thinks Obama administration guidance to schools on transgender students is a bad idea—but also where the U.S. Department of Education has an important role to play in other areas of education policy. Click on the video above to see our interview with her.

And also check out the work being done by the photographer who’s joined us in Cleveland by Swikar Patel, Education Week‘s associate director of photography, who’s been out on the streets covering protests, photographing and videoing delegates, and capturing all kinds of other color at the convention and around town. See Education Week‘s “Full Frame” photo blog.

Photo: Delegates roar at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Tuesday, July 20, 2016. (Swikar Patel/Education Week)

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