UNION COUNTY — Educational reform that includes free college education and doubling teacher salaries and health care reform that includes the expansion of Medicaid are among the changes gubernatorial candidate Phil Noble says he wants to implement if elected.
Noble, who is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in the June 12 Democratic primary, brought his message of reform to Union County Friday afternoon. He spoke about the problems facing South Carolina, problems that call for reform in a number of areas including education, health care, infrastructure, and the system of government now in place in Columbia.
“We started today a twelve-day ‘Send Them A Message’ Tour to send a message to the legislature about the kind of change and real reform we need in this state,” Noble said. “We started focusing on higher education we had a kick-off event at the Technical College in Pendleton talking about reform within higher education.”
That reform would involve making a college education free to all in South Carolina. Noble said this would be the ultimate goal of the program of reform he is proposing. As first step, however, Noble said the state should provide two years of free technical college, something he said three counties are already providing.
“We would eventually like to get to free college, (but) as a first step, we would like to get two years of free technical college,” Noble said. “In Laurens County, Greenwood County, and Williamsburg County they recognized how important this was and because the state wouldn’d provide it those counties said they would. If those three counties can provide this we should provide it across the state.”
Accompanying Noble on the first day of his Send Them A Message Tour was Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts who Noble said spoke about the importance of providing greater educational opportunity to all South Carolinians.
“The mayor of Anderson, Terence Roberts, who has endorsed me, was there to talk about what a positive impact it would be in Anderson if we provided that enhanced educational opportunity for everybody,” Noble said. “This is an example of the message the people in this state need to send. I’m just the messenger for that message.”
Noble said that the educational reform needed, however, is not limited to higher education.
“We need to reinvent the whole education system,” Noble said. “We need to start, not with Pre-K, but with pre-natal all the way to post-graduation. That means beginning with doubling teacher salaries in five years. We need to provide a laptop or iPad for every kid in every school. We need to make sure kids have a basic level of nutrition and health care support.
“We need to then empower the teachers to decide what and how they want to teach their kids,” she said. “Today we’ve got a one size fits all top down policy from the South Carolina Department of Education and it’s just not working. If it was we wouldn’t be fiftieth in education.”
On health care, Noble criticized the decision by Gov. Nikki Haley to turn down Medicaid expansion, a decision he said cost the state billions of dollars, a decision that he said he would reverse if elected.
“Medicaid expansion could radically health care in this state,” Noble said. “Gov. Haley with the help of the Republicans turned down Medicaid expansion which would have meant billions to improve health care.
“The governor can accept Medicaid expansion with the stroke of a pen,” he said. “That’s what I’ll do on my first day in office.”
Noble also voiced criticism of what he calls the “plantation politics” in the state legislature which has prevented the state from addressing pressing needs like infrastructure.
“The same problem applies to our highways and infrastructure,” Noble said. “The system has become so politicized we don’t building roads where they are needed, but where some politician decides they go.
“The whole system now in Columbia has become broken, dysfunctional, and corrupt,” he said. “Our school systems and infrastructure and highways all reflect the same thing which I call plantation politics. They all get together in the state legislature and cut deals to take care of themselves, their cronies, and their friends. They then say to the rest of us this is how it is, if you don’t like it tough.”
Noble said the system now in place is not only preventing South Carolina from addressing its problems, it is also preventing it from realizing its potential.
“The whole issue really is we’ve got this amazing state with great potential,” Noble said. “People in this state can do great things, they always have, but we are being held back by this broken and corrupt and dysfunctional government in the state house.
“The kind of reform we need always comes from outsiders, people who are not part of the system,” he said. “Me and my running mate, Dr. Gloria Tinubu, represent that change.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.