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McCrory unveils NC public education platform

Posted March 28, 2012 12:45 p.m. EDT
Updated March 28, 2012 7:07 p.m. EDT

— Pat McCrory's road map for public school improvements if he's elected North Carolina governor includes familiar stops from his 2008 campaign and builds on current initiatives.

The presumptive Republican gubernatorial candidate unveiled his platform Wednesday for K-12 education at the north Raleigh campus of Wake Technical Community College.

McCrory promoted his longstanding emphasis on vocational education and said he would push for two types of high school diplomas – one that certifies a student is college ready and another that certifies a student is ready for an outside career.

"Our education policy must be integrated with our economic policy," he said. "They should not be working separately from each other. They should work as partners along with our private sector."

The former Charlotte mayor also said he wants to reward the best teachers with higher pay and expand the state's online education system. He says he's glad the charter school limit has been lifted but worries about a slow approval process for new schools.

"We need pay for performance and to reward the best teachers, and we need to start implementing that system as soon as possible," he said.

McCrory declined to say how he would fund his proposals, which also include expanding classroom technology and more virtual lessons. He did say that he doesn't favor Gov. Beverly Perdue's proposal to add 0.75-cent to the state sales tax rate to restore some of the spending cuts to public education made last year to balance the state budget.

"You first look for resources inside the current educational establishment. Then you look within state government, and the last part you look for, especially during a recession, is more money from taxpayers," he said.

"We cannot afford to keep the status quo in education, and a lot of the requests are being made right now to pour more money into the existing system, which is resulting in an incredibly high drop out rate," he said. "I'm not going to accept that any longer."

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Etheridge said McCrory won't find much savings in education after $1.3 billion in budget cuts last year and another round this year.

"Last year, he was out there applauding the General Assembly when they were making those cuts," Etheridge said. "I think (his plan) is a bunch of smoke and mirrors."

A former state education superintendent, Etheridge said his education plan is coming soon, and it will include a tax increase for schools.

"You've got to be honest with the people of North Carolina. You can't get to excellence on the cheap," he said.

Orange County Rep. Bill Faison, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination, said he would support a tax increase for schools if it's necessary.

"I don't like taxes any better than anybody else does, but if the balance is kids' education (versus) taxes, you certainly don't want to waste the money, but you've got to educate the kids," Faison said.