COLUMBIA, S.C. — When South Carolinians head to the polls, they will have three candidates to choose from for Superintendent of Education: Lisa Ellis is the Democrat, Patricia Mickel represents the Green Party, and Ellen Weaver is the Republican candidate.
Lisa Ellis is a high school English teacher and founder of SCforEd, a group consisting mainly of South Carolina teachers calling for improvements in education, higher pay, and better treatment for teachers. In May 2019, SCforEd organized a teacher rally at the State House in Columbia that was attended by approximately 10,000, one of the largest crowds in the past 20 years.
Ellis holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from College of Charleston, a Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Columbia College, and a Master of Science in Forest Resource Management from Clemson University. She has been teaching in the classroom since 2001, most recently at Blythewood High School.
According to Ellis' website, in 2016, she secured school-wide grants to create an outdoor classroom and a recycling program, allowing for real-world learning experiences. Over her career, Ellis has earned the accolades of Honors Student Teacher of Excellence, Student Council Advisor of the Year, Staff of the Month, Columbia Business League Phenom, and more. She is also a proud CERRA Mentor and member of the Junior League of South Carolina. The Democrat won her party's primary election, winning 50.1% of the vote over Anderson County School District 4 Superintendent Gary Burgess (finished second with 31%) and state Rep. Jerry Govan (19%).
Patricia Mickel is the Green Party candidate. Mickel has been an educator for over fifteen years at the high school and collegiate levels. Her campaign says she fights for equitable learning for all students, regardless of race, ability or religion. Mickel grew up in Chester County and attended public schools in the district. She sees education as a way to fight poverty and provide access to equality. In a campaign video, Mickel states she would support and collaborate with educators to ensure they are respected for their contributions and receive the benefits and pay they deserve for the work they do in their communities.
Ellen Weaver, the Republican candidate, grew up in South Carolina and was educated in a combination of homeschooling and public schools. She is the only candidate with no teaching background. She graduated with a Bachelors Degree from Bob Jones University and went to work for Sen. Jim DeMint in the early 2000s. In 2013, she helped launch the Palmetto Promise Institute, a conservative think tank where she serves as president. Weaver is also a non-elected member of the Education Oversight Committee for the South Carolina General Assembly.
When she declared her candidacy for the Superintendent of Education, Weaver did not have the requisite advanced degree. She and fellow GOP contender Kathy Maness were forced into a runoff after Maness took 31% of the primary vote and Weaver finished second with 23% of the vote. In April, she enrolled in Bob Jones' online Masters program -- a program that normally takes 12-16 months to complete -- and announced in mid-October she had completed coursework (but not the in-class teaching requirement) to obtain a degree.
Weaver is a strong advocate of school choice and supports vouchers to subsidize private or charter school tuition. She promoted Gov. Henry McMaster's SAFE Grants program that would have used public funding to subsidize private school tuition but that program was determined by the South Carolina Supreme Court to be a violation of the state constitution's prohibition against state funds being used to fund private schools. Weaver has the endorsement of fellow Republicans, including McMaster, DeMint, Nikki Haley, and Sen. Tim Scott.