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Hunt Focuses on Education in State of the State Address

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Governor Jim Hunt says North Carolina will lead the nation in education.(WRAL-TV5 News)
RALEIGH — Governor Jim Hunt says North Carolina will lead the nation in education with smarter kids, better teachers, and safer schools. Education was the focus of Hunt's state of the state address Monday night.

Hunt says economic growth will pay for his plan to make North Carolina first in education.

He drew praise from Democrats and Republicans for emphasizing education in his eighth and final state of the state address, but some lawmakers say Hunt's number crunching does not add up.

"By the year 2010, North Carolina will build the best system of public schools of any state in America," Hunt said.

Hunt's speech was punctuated by enthusiastic applause as he outlined his goal of leading the nation in education.

Hunt's priorities include expanding theSmart Startearly childhood program and raising teacher salaries to the national average.

"I will shake hands with every member who will accept this challenge. I will ask for your help," Hunt explained.

Hunt will need help from the legislature in making his ambitious agenda a reality. He says lawmakers can pass his entire wish list without raising taxes.

But, even top Democrats are not sure that is possible.

"If we don't have downturns, yes. If we have downturns, no. So we make the adjustments. We make the changes, and we start prioritizing," saidSen. Marc Basnight, President Pro Tem.

Republicans say there will be enough funding for teacher pay raises. But they believe passing Hunt's other initiatives would mean raising taxes.

"I don't think we can come up with enough money to fund all of Gov. Hunt's requests without raising taxes," said Lee Currie of theN.C. Republican party.

Hunt says he'll issue an executive order this week asking the Education Cabinet to develop a set of goals to make our schools the best in the country by 2010.


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