After 23 years of active duty military service and three years in the South Carolina National Guard, Lt. Colonel David Ellison remains committed to the country and state he calls home. Inspired by his belief in empowerment through quality education, the father of four has a goal of seeing every child in South Carolina attend and graduate from a school of their parents’ choosing. As the only Republican nominee in the District 32 race for State Senate, Ellison will face off against the Democratic winner of the June 9 primary.
“My Number One reason for running is to make education great again in South Carolina,” said the Georgetown County resident, “We’re not there yet.” In addition to private school, public school, Department of Defense Schools and dual-credit programs, his own children received much of their education from the homeschooling provided by their mother, Stefanie, who holds a teaching degree, and their father who is knowledgeable in world history, business and Judeo-Christian studies. Nevertheless, Ellison realizes that homeschooling, private schooling, parochial schooling as well as other alternatives to government-run schools are neither affordable nor practical for many families.
Citing the Schott Foundation statistic that reports a mere 51% high school graduation rate for African-American males in South Carolina, Ellison says, “That is an unacceptable crying shame that must end now. There is not a one-size-fits-all-cookie-cutter K-12 solution. All children are made in the image of God and are highly valued. Each has strengths and weaknesses; all children deserve to be educated based upon what best works for them individually, not what works best for the South Carolina Educational Industrial Complex.”
The first-time candidate noted the failure of the Williamsburg County School District, one that serves approximately 4,000 students who live in District 32. Despite receiving $16,645 per pupil—several thousand dollars more than the state average—Williamsburg County ranked in the bottom 1% of state school districts. In 2018, the South Carolina Department of Education declared an emergency and seized control of the school system, which resulted in the firing of the Williamsburg superintendent and school board. Ellison summarized the State Education Department’s findings in his own words: “poor academic performance, fiscal mismanagement, and special education program failure.” He elaborated on the “loss” and “redirection” of $600,000 that the SCDE reported “could have been used to provide specialized instruction to students with disabilities” according to the report. “Failures of this magnitude point to a breakdown in political leadership,” Ellison further noted. “The people of Senate District 32 should have better.”
“Parental Educational Choice (PEC),” says Ellison, “includes private schools, church schools, same-gender schools, home schools, trade schools, boot-camp schools, charter schools, STEM magnet schools, and government-run education (public schools). Parents intuitively know what’s best for their children. While we have many great teachers, parents have the God-given duty to ensure their K-12 children are educated properly.”
After analyzing programs that other states offer, Ellison has become an advocate for offering parents an Educational Savings Account (ESA) or tax credits that would give them the freedom to purposefully and personally choose from competing K-12 institutions. With parents in charge of allocating their taxpayer funds for K-12 educational options, instead of the government, according to Ellison, the economic principle of supply and demand would lead to new schools created by the private sector. “Great things happen in education when K-12 parents are given more choices along with the financial freedom and resources to afford to pull their children out of failing government-run schools.”
“A rising tide lifts all boats and competing for students to educate is a good thing. We do it all the time in higher education because it works,” he said in hopes that teachers’ associations will “accept the challenge and not balk at competition, tailored curriculum, and increased parental involvement. Furthermore, PEC provides for transportation and academic accountability as well.”
Having traveled internationally with the US Army and Air Force and having earned degrees in business and hospitality, Ellison values the relationship between a trained labor force, thriving businesses, and prosperous communities. “I believe families, churches, charities and the private sector can and will do a better job of lifting folks out of poverty when the government stops promoting self-defeating programs,” Ellison says, adding that he is “keen on” pro-business, pro-citizen, economic resurgent Opportunity Zones (OZ) for low-income communities. “Opportunity Zones offer citizens large tax incentives to put their capital to work in low-income communities. OZs can lead to massive amounts of capital gains tax savings for investors and small businesses in low-income areas. OZs can turn impoverished areas in District 32 into thriving communities through private/public partnerships, which is a winning combination,” Ellison explains.
“We owe fathers and mothers the opportunity to make sure their children are successful. The government’s job is to restrain evil, level the playing field, to protect and serve. Government cannot be everything to everybody. Only 30% of every welfare dollar makes it to the intended recipient; the other 70% goes to pay government overhead and administrative costs. That’s a poor business model, which has created no incentive for bureaucracies to help able-bodied healthy folks break free from a culture of government dependence,” he continued.
As the founder of Georgetown’s “Vets for Jesus” group, Ellison names Jesus as the person he most admires. As a candidate who stands for personal responsibility, strong work ethic, traditional marriage, pro-life legislation and fiscal responsibility in a less intrusive, more-responsive government, he names Abraham Lincoln, Jackie Robinson, and fellow Republicans Joseph Rainey and Ronald Reagan next on his list. His favorite quote comes from theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.”
Ellison concluded with his view on communities recovering from COVID-19. “Recovering from the Wuhan Virus is a delicate balance between health and safety, the economy and Constitutional Rights. President Trump’s January 31 decision to ban travel out of China saved thousands and possibly millions of lives despite the unfair criticism he received. Isolation and increased unemployment bring their own set of deadly physical and mental health issues to citizens. Getting citizens back to work and in school in a responsible manner has to be a priority. One must care about all of these things in order to find workable solutions,” said the candidate.
District 32 is made up of approximately 90,000 residents in an area that stretches across all of Williamsburg County and parts of Georgetown, Berkeley, Horry and Florence Counties. The four-candidate race for state senate in the Democratic primary lists incumbent Ronnie Sabb of Williamsburg County, Manley Marvell Collins of Berkeley County, in addition to Kelly Spann and Ted Brown, both of Georgetown County. The general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020.
More information about Republican nominee David Ellison can be found at ellisonforstatesenate.com. or on his Facebook page titled “David Ellison for State Senate.”