CLAYTON -- As it often does, education has become a central topic during campaign season. With only 42 days until the Nov. 6 election, N.C. House candidates Leo Daughtry and Jenifer Bubenick are staking out their positions.
At a recent meeting in Glen Laurel, Bubenik met with local teachers to understand their policy concerns so she can better represent them if she wins.
On a poster board outside the home, Bubenik asked the teachers to write down their concerns so she could keep them as a reminder.
“I’m trying to understand what’s going on inside the classroom,” Bubenik said.
Teachers listed the need for smaller class sizes, salary increases, more support for special needs classrooms and a functional curriculum for severe and profound students, among other concerns.
But the need for salary increases was the main issue that teachers voiced at the meeting.
Bubenik said she would be in favor of a 3/4-cent or 1-cent sales tax increase to grow the education budget and help pay for teacher raises.
“People who say they want to invest in education but have no way of paying for it don’t support education,” Bubenik said.
She added that she hopes she could work on education policy in a bipartisan manner.
“It affects everyone whether you’re a Democrat or Republican. Everyone is affected by public schools in some way. It’s a North Carolina issue,” she said.
Daughtry, Bubenik’s opponent, said that with the economy the way it was when the 3/4-cent sales tax came up for debate, it wouldn’t have made sense to raise taxes.
“We made a decision, a bipartisan decision, that we would not raise taxes at that time, because it didn’t make any economic sense to take about $800 million out of the economy that was really in a downspin,” Daughtry said.
He also emphasized last year’s 1-percent pay raise to public school teachers as the first raise they had received in four or five years. And while he acknowledges that a 1-percent raise isn’t very much, he said it’s a step in the right direction.
“It sends a signal that we do care about teachers, No.1, and No. 2, we did all that we could do,” Daughtry said. “Hopefully in the future our economy would turn around, and once we have additional money it’d be great to give not just teachers a raise but state employees a raise in general.”
In regard to other education policy, Daughtry said he’s a proponent of the Excellent Public Schools Act, which stalled in committee during the last legislative session. The act would require third-graders who didn’t meet reading level requirements to attend a summer reading camp and then repeat the third grade if the camp doesn’t get them where they need to be.
The act would also fund five extra days in the school year and establish performance pay for teachers.
“If you can’t read you can’t learn, and so we have to figure out a way to make sure people when they get to the third grade have the ability to read and if they can’t, we need to do something about it,” Daughtry said.