GOP education candidates differ on DPI cuts, federal funding
Posted July 12, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — The two Republicans in a runoff for the state superintendent of public instruction nomination both call themselves conservative, but they have different philosophies for running North Carolina's education system.
Richard Alexander, who has been an educator for nearly two decades, would make deeper cuts to the Department of Public Instruction.
"I think we can reduce it, in the first two years, by 40 to 60 percent. That gives us $150 million to $200 million a year that can be redistributed down to the local level," said Alexander, who won 24 percent of the vote in the May primary.
John Tedesco, a Wake County School Board member who led the primary field with 28 percent of the vote, said he would try to make DPI more efficient.
"We can be leaner, but we need to be strong," Tedesco said.
He said he also would push for a merit pay system for teachers, an idea that Alexander opposes.
"Shouldn't they be rewarded for the extra hard work they do?" Tedesco said.
"I do not believe in performance-based pay right now because there is no fair way to do it," Alexander said.
Federal funding accounts for about 16 percent of education spending in North Carolina, but Alexander said he would no longer accept it, if elected.
"The federal government will say, 'We are going to pay for it for two years, but you have to have it for six,'" he said.
Tedesco said the federal grants North Carolina receives belong to the state and are needed in the schools.
"I have to make sure we have our dollars to educate our children. I just have to make sure we are not tied to their strings in the process," he said.
Both men said they support raising teacher pay, but neither wants to raise taxes to generate more money for education. They also both want to expand the number of charter schools in North Carolina and give more control to local school boards.
They said they want stronger vocational education programs, where businesses work with schools to produce job-ready graduates.
Another area where the disagree is the future of the position they seek.
Alexander wants to make the state superintendent a gubernatorial appointment – if voters approve the move – while Tedesco said it should remain a separate elected post.
"The governor is ultimately responsible for education," Alexander said.
"(An elected superintendent makes) that position then accountable to the citizens (and) able to stand up without worry of being fired by a bureaucrat," Tedesco said.
The winner of the July 17 runoff will face Democratic incumbent June Atkinson in November.