Both Stewart and Atkinson want to make sure every child in every county gets a quality education. For Stewart, it is personal. He grew up in rural Sampson County.
"I remember going to N.C. State and being in a biology lab, and I had never done a biology lab in high school. Now, that's nothing bad about my high school. They did everything they could," he said.
Stewart wants to bridge the gap between urban and rural school districts by developing a common education agenda with ideas from educators, administrators, and legislators.
Atkinson said she would reach out to businesses and higher education -- especially to help reduce the drop-out rate.
"These programs must help students see why it's important to stay in school, so we've got a lot of work to do to keep those students in school," she said.
Both Atkinson and Marshall want to reorganize the Department of Public Instruction to make it effective. Atkinson touts her experience as director of instruction at DPI as giving her an edge over her opponent.
"I have in-depth experience. I have breadth and depth of knowledge about how education works in North Carolina," she said.
Stewart's experience includes his last position as director of Agriculture Education at North Carolina State, but he has no qualms about being called a newcomer to DPI.
"I think the difference is fresh ideas, a new face, new leadership versus, perhaps, status quo. To me, that's the difference," he said.
The winner will face Republican Bill Fletcher in November.
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