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Your Voice, Your Vote: Voters Debate Whether Education Belongs on the Free Market

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RALEIGH — North Carolina's gubernatorial candidates have strong ideas on how to improve schools. The idea that divides them the most is the issue of state-supported school vouchers. It is an issue that gets voters talking.

Republican Richard Vinroot wants a plan that gives children in poor schools a choice. Democrat Mike Easley says the proposal would bleed much-needed money from public schools.

Helene Webb chose to send her 6-year-old daughter, Shaunna, to Raleigh Christian Academy. She could not have done it without a scholarship, which she received from a privately funded voucher program.

"It allows me to place her in the school I want to place her in," Webb says.

Education isthetopic for virtually all political candidates this year.

What are vouchers? In a voucher system, parents decide where they want their tax dollars to go -- either to the public school their children are assigned to or to the private school they choose.

The state points to Johnston County Schools as a system that gives parents what they want -- a solid public education.

Crystal Bruton loves Glendale-Kenly Elementary School. Her sons get gifted and music classes and sports opportunities she could not offer as a home-schooler.

"If every school district offered what this school district offered, you wouldn't have to have the private schools," says parent Crystal Bruton.

The state favors school choice, but the N.C. School Board's chairman, Phil Kirk, has doubts about vouchers.

"I don't want to take tax money into a system that is not accountable," he says.

Schools would only be accountable to parents who can walk away and choose another school.

Where you fall in the debate may determine how you vote in November. 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 the News and Observer. You can read more about the candidate's views on school choice in Sunday's paper.

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Yvonne Simons, Reporter
Jay Jennings, Photographer
Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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