Candidates discuss education at forum
DENVER – On the same day public schools in Lincoln County opened their doors for the new year, candidates for the Board of Education discussed the possibility of running classes on a year-round basis.
It’s not something completely foreign to Lincoln County.
Catawba Springs Elementary worked on a year-round basis for a time in the mid-1990s.
And some candidates are all for trying it again.
Board of Education chairman Ed Hatley worked closely with Catawba Springs principal Marvin Chapman when it went year-round in the mid-1990s. Certain things need to happen for it to be successful, he said.
“If a school is going to go year round, you need to commit to it and have buy in from the parents,” Hatley said at the Fourth Monday Forum at the Denver Fire Department. “One of its best advantages…you can do remediation immediately. The kids don’t fall behind for so long.”
The candidates discussed a nine-week on, three-week off schedule for schools. Most thought the positives were easily identifiable, both in the classroom and out.
“I think the parents that have it love it,” Mark Mullen, running for the county at-large seat, said. “They love it because they’re not just dead set on having vacation during the summer time. They’re able to do more with their families, and I think keeping that family unit close is important.”
Cathy Davis, running for the District 1 seat, agreed that year-round schools were a good idea for the county.
However, it might be harder to transition than some think, she said, especially for daycare facilities.
“It would be a big transition on their part when it comes to planning,” Davis said. “I think it would be difficult, there would have to be a lot of selling to the community.”
Anita McCall, running against Hatley for the District 3 seat, said the process of transitioning to year-round schools wouldn’t be easy.
But she thinks it’s eventually the best-case scenario.
“I think it would be almost impossible to get everyone to switch to it,” McCall said. “I think that change would be so slow, I just don’t think we’re ready for that yet. Maybe work to it in the future by educating people. It’s not a quick move.”
Several candidates also noted that finances would come into play because the school buildings would be open year-round, increasing utility and other bills.
“Right now our buildings are sitting there empty during the summer,” Tony Jenkins, running for the District 4 seat, said. “We can at least scale back things like air conditioning during the summer. I know it increases our budget and I don’t know how that would be funded.”
N.C. Senate candidates David Curtis (R) and Ross Bulla (D) spoke to the North Carolina Education Lottery.
When the lottery was first implemented in 2005, 35 percent of the proceeds went to schools in the state. Since then, that number has dropped to 29 percent.
According to www.nc-educationlottery.org, Lincoln County had received more than $13.6 million in education lottery funds, including more than $4.6 million for teacher salaries and $5.2 million for construction projects.
“If I had been in the legislature at the time, I would have voted against it,” Curtis said. “If it’s going to be called an education lottery, it needs to be that.”
Curtis said he’d recommend raising the lottery proceeds to somewhere in the 60 percent range.
“I don’t think these folks that buy the lottery tickets care if the payout is $3 million or $30 million,” Curtis said.
The lottery proposal was approved in 2005 under then-Gov Mike Easley.
“I admit that the Democrats snuck the lottery into law,” Bulla said. “But the people who have redirected most of the funding are current general assembly members. Our GOP counterparts have to take some of the blame for directing those funds elsewhere.”
Bulla said it’s going to take work from both parties to put the ‘education’ back into the North Carolina Education Lottery.
“Unfortunately, we reap what we sew,” Bulla said. “Collectively, we sewed something poorly.”
Curtis also harped on the importance of getting students on a competitive level with other countries around the world.
“If you look at our test scores and Europeans, they’re spending less per student and getting better scores,” Curtis said. “Our students will be competing with them and right now we’re not doing very well.”