by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Today’s CommenTerry is a short assessment of Walter Dalton’s education plan, "Great Jobs Grow from Great Schools: Walter Dalton’s Education Plan: Building Momentum for a Better, Brighter and Stronger North Carolina." Walter Dalton is the other guy running for governor.
"Great Jobs Grow from Great Schools: Walter Dalton’s Education Plan: Building Momentum for a Better, Brighter and Stronger North Carolina" is the title of Walter Dalton’s education plan.
The eighteen-page plan includes six major areas and at least 29 components (see Facts and Stats below). I say "at least" 29 components because there are multiple proposals embedded in some of these sections.
1. Prioritizing And Protecting Funds For Education. Dalton wants to spend more money. He makes it clear that he would not increase the sales or income taxes to increase education spending. Rather, the money would come from "closing tax loopholes and ineffective credits and exemptions." In this area, his plan is short on specifics, i.e., he does not list the tax loopholes and ineffective credits and exemptions that would get the boot.
2. Aligning Education With Job Needs. Even though the introduction includes a bizarre jab at McCrory, many of Dalton’s proposals to better align education with business and industry identify strategies proposed and/or welcomed by both Democrats and Republicans. For example, Republican legislators agree with Dalton that the state should take measures to accelerate the use of Advanced Placement (AP) courses. In fact, Representatives Hugh Blackwell, Bryan Holloway, Linda Johnson, and Jonathan Jordan sponsored House Bill 965: An Act to Broaden Successful AP Participation earlier this year. Furthermore, I suspect that Republicans would agree with Dalton’s plan to value the mission of the community college system and keep the lines of communication open between economic and education leaders.
3. Respecting Teachers And School Leaders. Dalton’s goal of increasing teacher salaries to the national average is a page out of the Mike Easley playbook. Regardless, Dalton appears to want to buy the respect of public school teachers through incremental pay increases. Presumably, he would pay for these increases by using revenue generated through closing tax loopholes and eliminating ineffective credits and exemptions.
4. Making Higher Education More Affordable And Accessible. Dalton complains, "Pat McCrory’s policies shift money away from traditional public and charter schools to fund private schools." Yet, one of Dalton’s proposals is to "empower more families to invest in a 529 college savings plan." Does he know that families use these funds for (gasp!) private college and university tuition? And how about a 529-type plan for families with children in the pre-K–12 system? If it is good enough for college students, it should be good enough for elementary and secondary school students.
Dalton writes, "One of the greatest disappointments is that North Carolina’s schools of education didn’t try to charter schools in order to conduct clinical practices to determine best practices that could then be used to improve our traditional public schools." I applaud his willingness to embrace good ideas from those who often disagree with him. In 2007, I wrote a report titled, "Why UNC Needs Charter Schools: Charter Demonstration Schools Can Improve Teacher Education," that made the same point.
5. Modernizing Schools With New Technology And Updating Teaching Methods. Much of this section deals with educational technology. It is mostly an extension of Bev Perdue’s initiatives and ideas, such as the use of "diagnostic assessments and tools" to evaluate students. Technology can get expensive! It is a good thing that North Carolina will be rolling in the dough from closing tax loopholes and eliminating ineffective credits and exemptions. But I want to focus on the vision of charter schools outlined under this heading.
Make no mistake about it — Dalton doesn’t care for charter schools. He wants them capped and/or heavily regulated. Ironically, Dalton’s home county, Rutherford, has one of the best charter schools in the state — Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy. Anyway, a Governor Dalton would "require a widespread review so we know what’s working (and not working) in charter schools, so we can highlight their best practices and put them to work in our public schools as well." First, charter schools are public schools. Second, most traditional public schools do not care about best practices in charter schools and wouldn’t adopt them if they did. Finally, let’s treat all public schools equitably. How about a "widespread review" of traditional public schools to see what’s working (and not working)?
6. Expanding Quality Early Childhood Education Programs. I do not know how Dalton would pay for the "large-scale, voluntary preschool program" mentioned in this section. Perhaps it is just a matter of closing more tax loopholes and eliminating ineffective credits and exemptions.
On the other hand, one inexpensive proposal is to provide every newborn a library card. Dalton’s idea would have been a great idea in, say, 1970 when the primary sources of reading materials were public schools, public libraries, and perhaps a set of Encyclopedia Britannica at home. But when these newborns begin to read in four or five years, they will be going to retrieve a great deal of their reading materials online. Interestingly, one of the goals of Dalton’s education plan is to transition to "digital learning statewide for all students, so they eventually each have a digital, networked device." If every student has a "digital, networked device," why would they need to go to a library?
In the end, those who like Dalton’s plan must acknowledge that he would not be able to achieve a tenth of what he proposed unless he raised sales and/or income taxes significantly. Indeed, Dalton writes checks that closing tax loopholes and eliminating ineffective credits and exemptions can’t cash.
Marvin the Martian: "You found my illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator!"
Facts and Stats
Below is an outline of the major parts of "Great Jobs Grow from Great Schools: Walter Dalton’s Education Plan: Building Momentum for a Better, Brighter and Stronger North Carolina"
Prioritizing And Protecting Funds For Education
Aligning Education With Job Needs
Respecting Teachers And School Leaders
Making Higher Education More Affordable And Accessible
Modernizing Schools With New Technology And Updating Teaching Methods
Expanding Quality Early Childhood Education Programs
I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].
Education Acronyms of the Week
Below is a list of acronyms used in "Great Jobs Grow from Great Schools: Walter Dalton’s Education Plan: Building Momentum for a Better, Brighter and Stronger North Carolina"
Quote of the Week
"If elected, I will work with you to be the public school governor North Carolina needs to ensure that we have a strong workforce well-prepared for the jobs of the future."
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