Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Debate for Children and Families

Sorry for the lengthy post today, but I have been representing the SC Campaign on a committee that is planning a gubernatorial debate focused on issues that relate to children and healthy families. At this point each gubernatorial candidate has been invited to attend, but neither has responded. My hope is that both Representative Haley and Senator Sheheen will want to discuss these critically important issues. Below are the questions that each candidate was given when asked to participate.


1. According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, South Carolina has the lowest corporate tax rates in the southeast and, Forbes lists us as the third best regulatory environment in the nation. A key component of sustainable business and economic development is driven by the quality of life in communities. This includes ensuring the communities are safe and healthy, the children have equal access to high-quality education, and there remains on-going secondary education and training opportunities for a new workforce. As governor, how will you seek to make South Carolina communities more competitive for new economic opportunities?

2. South Carolina’s unemployment rate has remained greater than 10 percent since the beginning of the economic recession. In some counties, the rate is double. As governor, what would be your plan to increase job availability across the state?

3. The economic recession has threatened families’ securities and placed a greater demand on social safety nets. Enrollment for temporary assistance programs has increased by more than 20,000, and by more than 200,000 for food supports. A February 2010 Winthrop Poll found that over the past 12 months 1 out of 5 South Carolinians felt that food would run out in their home before being able to afford more. As governor, how would you seek to enhance these essential family supports and ameliorate the security of families?

4. The South Carolina Tax Realignment Advisory Committee will be reporting their recommendations to the General Assembly this fall. As governor, how will you seek tax reform in a fashion that promotes economic development and secure stability for the state’s population?
5. Many families seeking employment struggle with obtaining, and affording, appropriate childcare facilities; yet only 20 percent of eligible families receive ABC childcare vouchers. As governor, how would you seek to promote greater utilization of the vouchers allowing individuals to return to work when jobs are available?


1. A recent report published by the National Institute for Early Education ranked South Carolina 10th in access to early education, and 37th in terms of quality out of the 38 states who provide support for early education. As governor, how would you enhance the quality of early childhood education across the state?

2. In 2006, the General Assembly approved Act 388 altering the funding base for schools away from property taxes to a one-cent sales tax. Economic forecasts demonstrate this has resulted in $1 billion less in educational funding. As governor, what is your position on educational financing providing an equitable structure for all children in the state?

3. Budget cuts have resulted in more than 4,000 education positions lost over the past two years resulting in larger classrooms, loss of afterschool supports, and reduced services for at-risk students. As governor, how do you plan to work collectively with both the next Superintendent of Education and the General Assembly towards restoring South Carolina’s educational framework?

4. The State Department of Education reports a high school graduation rate of less than 60 percent. This marks South Carolina with one of the lowest rates in the country. The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, recognizing the importance of education as economic development, has embraced the goal of reducing the dropout rate by 50 percent. As governor, what approach would you take to providing optimal educational success for youth and strengthening graduation rates?

5. State funding for post-secondary education has decreased substantially leading to higher tuition across South Carolina and the United States. As governor, what would you do to position South Carolina colleges, universities and technical colleges to ensure a more dedicated and prepared citizen population, and workforce, across the state?


1. The state Department of Health and Human Services is currently projected to begin running a deficit by early summer 2011. As governor, how do you propose to restore fiscal strength to the agency while also securing all appropriate and essential health care services for South Carolina’s eligible citizens?

2. South Carolina ranks number one in the nation for children’s oral health care delivery. Yet, fewer than 16,000 of the eligible 100,000 children have enrolled in Healthy Connections since the expansion up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($22,050 for a family of four). As governor, what will you do to promote a child health delivery system that ensures children receive primary, preventative and comprehensive health care services they need?

3. Nearly 30 percent of South Carolina’s population is obese. For children, this rate is at 15 percent. As governor, how would your administration seek to address obesity of children and adults?

4. Studies indicate anywhere from 8-12% of children and youth have mental health concerns and 3-6% have serious emotional problems. More than two-thirds of all children in out-of-home care are there because of mental health or substance abuse challenges. As governor, how will you address the concerns of families confronting mental illness or substance abuse?

5. In 1988, the Comprehensive Health Education Act passed allowing South Carolina students to receive an age-appropriate, comprehensive, health education program in middle and high school. The statute requires high levels of involvement from local communities, although many schools are still not in compliance and are not providing the required information. As governor, what measures would you seek to ensure schools follow the legislative intent, and what other strategies would you pursue to address high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases?


1. More than 12,000 children are abused or neglected each year in South Carolina. Of these, more than 5,000 children are in foster care on any given day with the average length of stay more than three years before finding a permanent home. As governor, what will be your approaches toward safely reducing the number of children in foster care?

2. As governor, what will your administration’s direction be for keeping children safe and secure with their families—where appropriate, and in securing appropriate foster and adoptive homes—when necessary?

3. South Carolina has experienced record number of adoptions over the past two years—exceeding 500 each year. As governor, will you seek to continue the Department of Social Services’ efforts towards permanency including through enhanced recruitment of foster parents and outreach to kin-care providers?

4. South Carolina relies heavily on federal support for operation of its child welfare system. Current federal law, however, provides little support for prevention based initiatives and does not provide for reimbursement for all children living in foster care. As governor, how will you seek to work with other governors in reforming the financing of child welfare services in a fashion that allows for proven investments in prevention, intervention and aftercare?

5. Absent fathers are one of the more pressing social concerns in the state. Engaged fathers allow for greater child development, serve as a poverty reduction strategy, and are economic generators. As governor, what strategies will your administration support for the promotion of responsible fatherhood?

Parents are their children’s most important teachers and strong communities are needed to support families in this role. Government cannot—and should not—serve as a substitute for a child’s family and community. However, too many South Carolina families struggle to provide the nurturing and stable home environment all children need. Through poverty, parental stress, depression, addiction, or mental illness, too many children are vulnerable to a host of poor child outcomes. Increased mobility and family stress have also produced what some have called a “breakdown of the family.” The media and negative role models have contributed to risky youth behavior. Government cannot solve these issues alone, although leaders within government can establish a vision and direction for strengthening and supporting families’ throughout life.

As governor, how will you, and your administration, prioritize children and families in South Carolina?

written by: Cayci Banks, Director of Communications
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