(WSPA) – South Carolinians will head back to the polls for the statewide runoffs Tuesday and one of the elections still yet to be decided is the Republican nominee for state superintendent of education.

Kathy Maness and Ellen Weaver were the top two vote-getters during the Republican primaries on June 14 and two weeks later the candidates are facing off to see who will move on to November.

Candidates face runoff election for state’s top educator seat

Maness received around 31% of the vote earlier this month and is endorsed by outgoing State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. Maness, a former teacher, serves on the Lexington Town Council and is the executive director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association.

Maness said school safety, empowering parents, and recruiting and retaining teachers are some of her priorities while emphasizing the need to have students prepared for life after school.

“We need to make sure we in the public schools have provided them with the skills necessary to be successful, whether it’s going to college or going to work or going to serve our great country,” Maness said.

Ellen Weaver finished with 23% of the vote on June 14. She is the CEO of conservative think tank Palmetto Promise Institute and was the chairwoman of the state’s education oversight committee. Weaver said she will focus on expanding school choice, listening to parents and teachers, and helping students bounce back from disruptions caused by the pandemic.

“We got to back to teaching phonics and early literacy,” Weaver said. “If a child doesn’t have that foundational skill of reading they’ll become disengaged in school and fall further and further behind.”

Weaver has the fundraising edge and has also racked up endorsements from dozens of Republican state lawmakers as well as South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

With Spearman’s endorsement, Maness said her classroom experience sets her apart and understands what teachers are going through.

“I will use this office as a bully pulpit to work hard for our teachers & students and make sure our parents are involved,” she said.

Candidate qualifications is a topic that has come up many times on the campaign trail. A 2018 state law requires the state superintendent of education to have at least a master’s degree. Maness has hers in early childhood education and Weaver began a master’s program earlier this year. She’s expected to have her degree in educational leadership by the end of October.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Lisa Ellis, the Democratic nominee and co-founder of the teacher grassroots group SC for Ed.

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday.