Terrye Seckinger is a woman of vast accomplishment. She has compassionately served the state of South Carolina in the realms of politics and education over the last three decades. To name a few of her career successes, she co-founded Clemson’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was part of the Founding Parent Committee of Palmetto Christian Academy, and was a member of a task force to revamp the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. 

She also served on Attorney General Condon’s commission on gang activity and fought to protect South Carolina’s children from internet crimes. In addition, Seckinger was a chair member of South Carolina’s State Board of Education from 2003-2007. Her current occupation (since 2015) is on South Carolina’s Commission on Higher Education Board, a coordinating body for all public institutions of higher learning in the state.

This is only a short list of her involvement in education and politics, but it is a testament to Seckinger’s inspiring commitment to encourage families, help children, and improve education. Her experience has given her a strong voice for enacting much-needed change within the educational system. She believes that it’s “important to make sure that we are good stewards of public education to make sure that it is…smart and sharp and ready to truly educate, not indoctrinate, our children.”

Charter Schools

While Seckinger served on South Carolina’s State School Board, she observed that the board was  adopting the most minimal education standards for the state-run public schools. In her opinion, this is unhealthy for public schools and has led to a lack of accountability for quality education in the system.

However, while Seckinger was on the board, she chaired the subcommittee for charter schools. She has been a strong proponent of charter schools and the highly-diversified, atypical quality of education they offer to children. She first got involved in charter school promotion in 1998 when she became an instructor on charter school education at Palmetto Christian Academy in South Carolina—a charter school that she helped found with her husband. 

Charter schools are different from traditional public schools because they are required to show academic improvement to remain open. This level of accountability is very healthy for teachers, students, families, and communities. Seckinger says these charter schools have become highly popular in South Carolina, with parents scrambling to enroll their children. “The charter schools in South Carolina are so diverse and they each are kind of thematic; we have performing arts schools, we have technology schools…The best performing elementary school is a dual-language Mandrin-English school, and those children are incredibly excelling.” 

South Carolina is also home to several dual-enrollment charter schools that offer students the opportunity to graduate with a high school diploma and an A.S. Degree. This school option not only gives students a leg up on their future endeavors, but also familiarizes students and their families with the college process—a vital factor in communities where many families do not have a history of college attendance. 

Breaking the Monopoly

Along with promoting charter schools, Seckinger is also a proponent of breaking the government’s monopoly on education. She supports making a wide variety of educational options available to children: home schools, private schools, disability schools, etc. The ultimate goal is “to instill a love of learning in your child [that] will set them on a course that is unimaginable,” she says.

In today’s interview, she discusses two practical ways that the public education monopoly can be broken. First, Seckinger encourages parents to be involved in creatively choosing the right educational option for their children. Parents know their children best and are fully capable of placing young students where they most need to be. “Don’t go along with the neighbors and stick your child in a public school if they have an acumen to do something else. Explore. Be vested in the educational offerings that are available to you and exercise that for your child. It will mean a different trajectory in life for them.”

Secondly, Seckinger encourages legislators to let per-student government funds (typically given to public schools) follow the child instead. She believes that it would make all the difference in each child’s education if the government created individual education savings accounts for parents to use for their children’s educational path. 

Helping Kids Soar With Their Strengths 

Seckinger promotes pushing back against the government’s monopoly on education because she is a firm believer in the special individuality of students. In her opinion, the one-size-fits-all mentality of public school disrespects the beautiful uniqueness of children.  

Stuffing children into a standardized system is also the “perfect” way to discourage competition (which is necessary to incentivize higher academic standards) and to indoctrinate children into a single way of thinking. “I think we … have slipped from educating to indoctrinating, and we need to stop that,” Seckinger argues. Schools need to return to their created purpose: to serve children through academic instruction. “Let’s forget the indoctrination,” she says. “Let’s give people the respect that they are due—that they are people who can think through things themselves….We’re not [robots], we’re people, and we all have different interests and…different acumens.” 

“Let’s let children soar with their strengths and give them an opportunity to have an array of options that will allow them to do that,” she advises. 

In Conclusion 

Are you curious about how you can get involved and help kids thrive? Becoming part of your local or state board is one way you can help change the current approach to education. Speaking of the South Carolina State Board, Seckinger says, “We desperately need good minds.” It doesn’t take a degree or even a certification to get involved; there will always be a need for ordinary citizens who are devoted to loving children and improving education. 

There is also a great need for teachers. Recently, the state of South Carolina has been suffering a severe teacher shortage. According to Seckinger, the state was short 550 teachers on the first day of school last year. She also encourages current teachers to play to their strengths and persevere.

Whether you’re a parent, an educator, or a legislator, there is always something you can do to help improve education for children that will have a positive impact and ripple throughout America’s future.

If you’d like to watch the entire interview between NWEF President Melvin Adams and Terrye Seckinger, click here. If you’d prefer to watch specific clips, you can click a topic below:

    1. Introduction
    2. Involvement In Education Related Politics
    3. Education and the Role Government Should Play
    4. Education Commissioner and the State School Board
    5. Want to Serve at the State Level?
    6. Charter Schools in South Carolina
    7. Making Public Resources Available to All Children
    8. Thoughts on Instruction
    9. A Word to Parents and Educators
    10. Closing

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Note from the Editor: We thank all our contributors for their insights and expertise. However, the views of guest authors or interviewees are not necessarily those of Noah Webster Educational Foundation.