Matthews's comments were part of a larger article on the potential battles facing this year's legislative session.
"The biggest issue is how to deal with available revenue," the Bowman Democrat said. "How we use that will be this biggest fight we have.
"This depends on Republican leadership in the General Assembly and the governor's leadership. Beyond that we need to have a long-term plan to manage our budget. We need to come to a consensus on that to have stability in the system."
But it was his thoughts on public education that jump out:
If we agree with the premise that every child in South Carolina is due the same quality education as any other, then we as a state should make certain that happens. It won't until we fund education on a statewide basis.
That's the very problem: We don't all agree with the premise that every child in South Carolina is due the same quality education as any other.
Disagreement on this simple premise is why it took South Carolina 307 years to adopt a law to appropriate annual funding for public education statewide -- the Education Finance Act in 1977 -- and why the legislature has defied its own law and under-funded the EFA more than 20 of the past 34 years.
Simply stated, a majority of our lawmakers do not agree that educating ALL of our children should be the highest priority of the state, and a majority of them do not agree that educating YOUR child is just as important to the public good as educating MY child.
We -- our state -- grew out of a culture and ideology that believed and demonstrated through public policy that only the sons of wealthy planters should be educated, and that paying for their education was an individual obligation. On our own, as a state, we haven't moved very far from that concept. In truth, it's only because of federal intervention by Supreme Court decision that we educate more than just white children in integrated public schools, but it's largely because we so vigorously resist federal imposition that we bend over backwards, every year, to provide the least, the smallest, the littlest -- dare I say "minimally adequate"? -- necessary resources for public education.
And then our leaders gnaw on educators and public schools for their "failures," beat their breasts in public and demand greater accountability from the ever-smaller corps of missionaries and martyrs who serve ever-larger class sizes with few and old resources.
Other states grew up as America grew up. They matured. They evolved. They agreed with the American proposition that what benefits some of us should benefit all of us. So other states have dealt with these questions of support for public education and moved on to matters of improving, strengthening, expanding education opportunities. South Carolina never did; we have fought tooth and nail against such evolution. When it would have been easier to agree, to fund public schools and mature with the rest of the nation, we've searched high and low for strategies to delay, to avoid, to escape maturity and sobriety. It's inarguable; proof of it fills tomes of our history. It's so obvious and ugly that it's almost poor taste to discuss it in public.
Yet South Carolina won't ever emerge from its self-imposed adolescence until the subject is discussed, and until our leaders -- lawmakers, too -- choose to make different decisions. No matter how many orders our people fulfill for Amazon, or how many BMWs and Michelin tires roll off factory lines, the patina of Nikki Haley's "great day in South Carolina" will be only that: Shiny paint and wax covering a decayed and useless jalopy. Scratch it, and you'll see how shallow and brittle is the greatness.
Matthews said a mouthful, and he's one of a small number who have said it consistently for a generation. "If we agree with the premise that every child in South Carolina is due the same quality education as any other, then we as a state should make certain that happens. It won't until we fund education on a statewide basis."
Why do we have so few like him?