Local News

Your Voice, Your Vote: Education the Number One Priority

Posted March 23, 2000

— According to a"Your Voice, Your Vote" survey, education is the number one concern of voters headed to the polls to elect the next governor.

North Carolina's educational crown jewel is the university system, but the jewel is losing its luster from decades of deferred maintenance and a lack of facilities to keep up with growth.

Most gubernatorial candidates think there should be a statewide bond referendum for UNC and the community colleges, but how much?

"I would support a bond for an appropriate amount of money," says republican candidate Leo Daughtry. "I would support also some direct immediate infusion of cash, around $300 million, to meet the immediate needs of the university system."

Republican candidate Richard Vinroot is not as specific. "I have to be more assured that that billion dollars is absolutely essential, and that we need to change the way we're funding our higher education facilities."

As the state awaits results from the low-wealth lawsuit which will decide how North Carolina funds public schools, the candidates for governor talk about how they will bring equity to counties too poor to pay more.

"Every child in the state should have the same quality of education as every other child," says democratic candidate Dennis Wicker. "I think what we need to do is continue to try to equalize the funding that they all receive in North Carolina per pupil."

Republican candidate Chuck Neely says equalizing funding will not necessarily equalize education. "Clearly, there is a relationship between funding and between the kinds of resources that can be made available in teachers, equipment," Neely says. "I'm not convinced that you need equality of funding to get equality of results."

Another educational issue that concerns students and parents is an achievement gap. Black and Hispanic students persistently lag behind white peers in the classroom.

Democratic candidate Mike Easley has a solution. "Early childhood development really does make a big difference," Easley says. "You get kids to school, ready to learn. Secondly, we have found in all of the studies that those children in lower class sizes really do achieve more, but especially at-risk kids."

Other candidates think gaps will close when parents have choices -- with charters or vouchers -- about the kind of education their child will receive. Your Voice, Your Vote is an association of television stations and newspapers across the state who will focus political coverage on the issues the voters have told us are most important -- not necessarily only what the candidates want to say.

WRAL-TV's partner for the election year is theNews and Observer. You can read more about the Your Voice, Your Vote poll in Sunday's paper.

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