We asked candidates for state and local office to tell us about their views on public education. Here are their answers.
Our Schools First sent a survey to every candidate for state legislature, Iredell County Commission, and Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education. OS1 does not endorse or recommend candidates in the 2018 Election–we simply wanted to provide the following information to help guide voters in their decision.
Qualifications and Experience
This is my first foray into politics so my experience is limited to this campaign but I do have a lot of experience solving problems. I’m a Physician Assistant so I work hard every day to find solutions for my patients. I gather as much information as I can about a problem, then use my knowledge, my experience, and my instincts to fix it. I think this approach will translate nicely into addressing the problems that Iredell County faces. I decided to run because we need more energy in our local government, more people who are enthusiastic about serving the people of Iredell County and want to work hard to make sure everyone gets ahead. Most politicians tend to be “job scared”, concerned that people will not vote for them when they take strong positions. Leading is not following public opinion, its about persuasion and movement, bringing people around to your point of view by showing them how its in their interest to see things the way you do. It doesn’t require political experience to be a leader.
I grew up in rural southeastern Wilkes County and went to the local elementary and high school where I had some of the best teachers and coaches that anyone could’ve ever hoped for. These folks empowered me with the tools that I would need to be successful at one of the best universities in the country, also a public school, UNC-Chapel Hill. Following graduation I went on to PA school at Methodist University and obtained a masters degree. I’ve been working in medicine since that time; currently I work at Urgent Care Facilities all over the greater Charlotte region. I’m married to my wonderful (and exceedingly tolerant) husband Nick and have two great step-children, twins, Claire and Jack. I also have perhaps the happiest golden retriever you’ve ever met, Miles. Outside of work, and this campaign, in my spare time I train to run marathons – I’ve completed 27 now, the most recent being earlier this month (October).
1. Do you believe that all children in Iredell County, regardless of where they live, are entitled to the same quality of education?
Absolutely. For so many children access to a great public education is the only shot they have, out of poverty, out of violence, out of hopelessness. Every child deserves the opportunity, regardless of their economic status and where they live to be able to go to a great, safe school with excellent teachers where with hard work they will be prepared upon graduation, to thrive.
2. Do you think that all children in Iredell County are currently receiving the same quality of education?
Certainly not. In looking at the school report card, it is obvious that the schools with more affluent parents have much higher grades. All the schools are having to do more and more with less and less funding, but the schools with more well-to-do parents are able to make up for this with active PTAs and parent volunteers as well as other resources that parents in economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods are just not able to offer.
3. Do you think that the level of funding for public schools in North Carolina is adequate? If not, do you think it’s the County’s or the State’s responsibility to increase public education funding?
No, the state cut school funding by 20% in 2009 and that funding has never been restored. Again, year after year our teachers and our schools are being asked to do more and more with less and less. All the cuts show, clearly you can see it in school performance but also in teacher retention, shortage of teacher assistants, lack of new and up-to-date text books, school safety. The state needs to restore funding, that is the first step, but additionally we as a county need to talk about restoring supplemental pay for teachers so they are treated like the professionals they are. We need to also have better lines of communication with the School Boards so we can figure out ways to fully fund the budget they submit.
4. Do you support the proposed Iredell County ¼ cent sales tax increase on the November 6, 2018 ballot?
Yes, the 1/4 cent is needed. Due to lack of funds the school districts’ budgets were again cut this budget cycle, so clearly every bit of revenue helps. Theoretically this 1/4 cent sales tax increase will generate around 6 million dollars, of which the school would likely get about 4.5 million, which is a good start, but imagine what could be done if our children were worth a whole penny to our leaders. The allotted 75% of that revenue could really make a difference in all our schools.
5. If you do support the proposed sales tax increase, do you believe that the local School Boards are best equipped to decide how to use additional sales tax revenue for our schools? If not, who is best equipped to make these decisions?
Definitely, the school board is an elected body, each member has to answer to the voters of their district. They should have control over how they spend the money in their budget and any additional streams of funding that have been allocated to them.
6. Are you aware of the recent North Carolina School Report Card which graded all schools in the Iredell County?
Yes, the report card made it very clear that the schools with the most resources do the best. You could’ve essentially calculated the grades by looking at the percentage of students considered economically-disadvantaged. Schools in neighborhoods where parents do not have extra money or a lot of free time are struggling, and when schools have parents who are able to be more engaged, have more time and money, they are able to make up the difference in the lack of funding across the board.