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Education: State superintendent says funds should follow the students to any public school

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Zoe Royal gave the state superintendent of education a math lesson, Montessori style.

She showed Mick Zais, who has a doctorate from the University of Washington, how beads are used to illustrate math concepts such as multiplication. “If you can make multiplication a game, it’s easy. Rote learning is hard,” Zais said. “I would have done much better in Montessori.”

He ended a visit to Georgetown County schools last week at the opening ceremony for the Coastal Montessori Charter School, where Zoe is a sixth-grader.

“It’s amazing that small children can take direction of their own education,” Zais said during a tour of Sarah Wilson’s upper-elementary classroom in a formerly vacant wing at Waccamaw Middle School. While he admired much about the school, he acknowledged Montessori isn’t for every child.

“It’s one different form of school choice,” he said.

Zais wants to expand the options for parents by allowing public funds to follow the child to any public school. “There are many different kinds of public education,” he said. “Let the money follow the child to the public school of their choice.”

And to make sure children can get to those schools, Zais said every child should have access to a school bus. The state charter school law specifically excludes funds for transportation. Both measures are on his agenda for the next legislative session, he told staff, students and families gathered to mark the opening of Coastal Montessori.

A long-time supporter of charter schools, Zais often speaks about them as an alternative for children in “failing” schools. He acknowledged Coastal Monstessori is different, as a school in an area where the four traditional public school consistently receive excellent ratings from the state.

“Even affluent kids learn differently,” Zais said. “Every child is special; every child is different.

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