Schools and the future NC governor

North Carolina’s public education is pretty important to me.

Chances are, graduates of this state’s schools will be my coworkers, doctors, lawyers and political representatives when I grow up. Heck, one day I might even send kids through the system myself.

And since I’m still registered to vote in Florida (but duly concerned about North Carolina), I’m jealous of all of you who get to vote for governor. This race could have far-reaching consequences for the future of this state’s schools.

So, for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on the candidates’ plans for education.

Democrat Walter Dalton and Republican Pat McCrory have the best education platforms — in that order.

McCrory has some solid ideas and a teaching certificate to boot. Dalton has the bureaucratic experience, and he has had a hand in many positive steps in North Carolina’s education policy.

The main difference-maker in the race, however, is a temporary 0.75-cent sales tax hike, which Gov. Bev Perdue is pushing.

Democrats are for it; Republicans aren’t. The tax would provide much-needed relief for the state’s strained education budgets.

I’ve watched tuition skyrocket these past few years, so despite being generally opposed to tax increases, I have to throw my support to Dalton.

If it means saving on tuition and, more importantly, creating a concrete base for quality education in North Carolina, I think we can stomach this minute increase.

As current lieutenant governor, Dalton sits on the state boards of education and of community colleges, giving him knowledge of K-12 and higher education alike.

Dalton also founded the Joining Our Businesses and Schools (JOBS) Commission in 2009. Clearly, he understands the importance of translating education directly into employment.

McCrory, a former mayor of Charlotte and the early frontrunner, holds some typical conservative views, like supporting charter schools and rewarding teachers for their students’ performance. But he also advocates for improved distance education and focusing on technical and vocational training.

The other candidates all have good ideas, but most of them lack feasibility.

Both Republican Douglas Schell, a former business and economics professor, and Democrat Bill Faison, a state representative from Orange County, would run into serious political and fiscal roadblocks implementing their lofty ideas.

McCrory and Dalton, on the other hand, both have realistic plans that would improve education in this state. But doing so requires money and experience — and Dalton’s plan edges out McCrory’s in both.

Thanks for reading.

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