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Education Reporter

Homeschool Mom Will Lead South Carolina Board of Ed
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South Carolina's state Board of Education voted for homeschooling mother Kristin Maguire as the board's new chair-elect. She will become its chairwoman in 2009. Maguire homeschools her four daughters, ages 8 to 14. She has served on the state board for the past eight years, after being elected in 2000 by local legislators and reappointed in 2004 by Gov. Mark Sanford.

According to the National Association of State Boards of Education, Maguire will be the only homeschooling parent to lead a state board overseeing public education. In South Carolina, this board is responsible for approving curricular standards, textbooks, and the teacher licensure process. Maguire's past efforts as a board member have gained her a reputation as a hard-working and well-prepared public servant, several other board members said. She led the charge to institute higher standards in math for South Carolina 3rd-graders, who now learn multiplication tables up to 12 x 12.

As chairwoman, Maguire says she hopes to make literacy her top priority, with the goal that every child in South Carolina's public schools would be able to read by the 3rd grade. She also wants to boost science and math education.

Maguire has clashed with some other members of the board over her support for abstinence education, a greater degree of school choice, and the teaching of intelligent design. She co-founded South Carolina Parents Involved in Education, a grassroots organization that seeks to improve education in the state through pro-family community involvement and activism, especially in informing and mobilizing parents to engage with various educational issues. (www.scpie.org)

State school superintendent Jim Rex, who has differed with Maguire on some issues in the past, said he respects the new chair-elect and is willing to work with her. "She's a well-informed board member . . . . She's shown a willingness to tackle the tough issues, and I wouldn't expect that to change," he said.

Maguire said she is encouraged that Supt. Rex has shown increasing interest in school choice initiatives. Supt. Rex hopes South Carolina will lead the nation in the creation of innovative public schools following the Montessori method or offering single-sex education. Rex supports a proposal that would require all South Carolina school districts to implement at least one school choice option — in most cases, a charter school — at each level (elementary, middle, and high school) within two years.

Gov. Mark Sanford has criticized Rex's proposal, however, saying it is too limited. The governor strongly supports private school choice as well as increased public school offerings for South Carolinians, while Supt. Rex opposes private school choice because he believes it would leave education too unaccountable to the government. Kristin Maguire has supported Gov. Sanford's school choice initiatives in the past, but said as chairwoman she would continue to "leave that subject to the Legislature." (Associated Press, 12-12-07)

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