Several issues were discussed during last night’s North Carolina Senate District 9 forum at the WHQR Gallery, but education continued to surface as one of the central debates. WHQR’s Sara Wood reports incumbent Republican Thom Goolsby and Democratic opponent Deb Butler argued the merits and failures of the state’s education system.
The two candidates played hot potato over which party deserves credit and blame for the state’s educational highs and lows. Republican Senator Goolsby lauded his party for improving teachers’ pay, health care and retirement plans after dealing with the mess he says Democrats left.
“We saw the results of this year in this county alone and across the state. We had an increase in the graduation rate in North Carolina. We had an increase in the standardized test rates here in New Hanover County on both of those fronts. So we’ve worked hard, we’ve concentrated on what we need to do to fix education.”
Democratic candidate Butler refuted Goolsby’s claims, saying he was taking credit for a program decades in the making.
“Sir, those children did not start school yesterday or last year. They started in 1993, which is when Smart Start originated. So we are now seeing the benefits of the Smart Start program, that’s why the test scores are higher, and you de-funded that by 20 percent. So don’t try to take credit for the graduation rates that are happening today.”
Goolsby says Republicans focused on what’s best for education during tough economic times, including creating budgets that make sense.
“My opponent continues to talk about education cuts. I would just point out to you from 2009 to 2010, when the democrats were in charge, we saw a reduction of half a billion dollars in the money that went to schools in North Carolina. In our first budget, you will see an overall increase in $11 million to schools federal, state and local money.”
Butler says Republicans should own up to the cuts they’ve made, including laying off thousands of North Carolina teachers.
“Just go round up some teachers. I sat with six retired New Hanover school teachers. They see what has happened: classroom sizes are billowing out, fewer resources, fewer teachers, fewer teaching assistants.”