First, on the debate itself:
The Democratic and Republican candidates held another alleged debate today, sponsored by a supposedly non-partisan group, which excluded the third candidate in the race. Predictably, their answers focused on how they are going to fix the problem by using government power.
The event was ironically held under the banner: “Education: Everybody’s Business.” Everybody, that is, except those who challenge the status quo, including a professor with nearly 25 years as an educator. Compounding the irony was the fact this “public” forum was held on private property and attendance was by invitation only. The program was recorded by the NC Telecommunications Association, another supposedly non-partisan group, and will be aired by WUNC on cable systems across the state.
News14 Carolina aired the debate live, but to their credit they interviewed me afterward. I hope that the follow-up interview will be distributed along with the main debate.
Public Forum for North Carolina Education President John Dornan opened the event by saying this was the third time his group has sponsored this event. He failed to mention, of course, that it is also the third time they have excluded the Libertarian Party candidate.
And on his opponents' positions:
Lt. Governor Perdue said there shouldn’t be only one paradigm for education. Mayor McCrory claimed he wanted to change the “culture of education.” Yet both talked only about one paradigm and one culture — that of having bureaucrats in Raleigh choose the curriculum, restrict the selection of teachers, and dictate the process of licensing.
The truth is that nothing will change if either of these folks are elected. Perdue believes the “responsibility of education rests with the governor,” a statement that shows her contempt for the parents and teachers of our state.
McCrory said he’d put more business leaders on the state Board of Education. Take away the political sloganeering, and both are telling the insulated and hidebound education establishment: “Vote for me, and I will give you other people’s money.”
Followed by his own vision for North Carolina public education:
My platform calls for a real paradigm shift, and a truly new culture. I believe the responsibility for each child’s education rests with two groups: the parents of that child, and the highly motivated teachers that the parent chooses. And I’ll let you keep more of your own money, money you yourself have earned. I would offer each parent in the state an education voucher, financed by lottery proceeds, of $1,250 per child in their household. This voucher could only be spent at a state-accredited school, or be credited to the household in the case of home-schooling.
And by the way, vouchers don’t “cost” anything, as Perdue claims, because it’s your money, not the government’s. If anything, vouchers would save money in the long run, as the average costs of education would fall.
Competition and school choice will be the central premise of the Munger Administration’s education policy, to give parents more control over their children’s education. I would streamline and simpilfy the accreditation process, lift the cap on charter schools, and foster the growth of charter schools, religious or theme schools, or any other kind of innovative educational program that can attract the children of parents who want to exercise their choices as parents.
And a promise to those who support traditional public education:
I would put a floor on public school spending at its existing level, for a five year adjustment period. Our schools need basic infrastructure work, from physical plant improvements to textbooks. So those of you worried about my voucher program should rest assured: the money will come from the payments already owed to education, by statute, but taken by the General Assembly for pet projects. No program cannot work by starving the traditional public schools of revenue. And I don’t want the General Assembly to be tempted to cut education dollars and use them for pork barrel spending in their districts, hoping lottery money will make up the difference.
So tell me again why those whacko Libertarians can't get access to public debates?