Education Reform at Center of North Carolina Senate Race

Fireworks broke out in North Carolina when Rep. Thom Tillis (R- Mecklenburg County), current speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives and campaigning for a seat in the US Senate, and incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, brought up the topic of education, reports Jon Ostendorff of the Citizen Times.

Tillis reminded voters that Hagan, while a state senator in 2005, voted to cut teacher assistant funding by $116 million and added:

Tillis' campaign said Hagan is relying on "falsehoods" about the Republican because "she can't defend the fact she has supported President Obama's liberal agenda 95% of the time."

During a debate in the primary race, Tillis made comments about doing away with the federal Department of Education. He said that, if elected, he would consider:

"…clawing back the regulations and, at some point, wonder whether it even needs to exist in its current form."

The Hagan campaign soon released a report that explained the "dangerous consequences" of eliminating this department, which included:

• Losing 7,000 teacher and staff jobs

• Pell Grant would cost students $5,730 more a year

• Require the state to shoulder the cost of providing education to 190,000 special education students

She believes some changes to the education department are needed, but she also wants to protect the assistance that is in place for educational programs.

 "Speaker Tillis should explain why he said this new budget wouldn't cut teacher assistants when it actually cut their funding an additional $105 million," spokesman Chris Hayden said. "Speaker Tillis is desperate to hide his wrong priorities that gave tax cuts to the wealthy and cut almost $500 million from education, and he is flailing as North Carolinians start to learn about the gimmicks and tricks he used for his election year bandaid budget."

Although Tillis' press secretary said on Tuesday that Tillis believes that the Department of Education could be run in a more efficient manner and could give states more flexibility, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the department was one of the smallest government agencies, writes Renee Schoof, reporting for The Sacramento Bee. 

The Tillis camp was quick to respond.

"Kay Hagan is at it again," said Jordon Shaw, Tillis' campaign manager. "It's clear from his comments that he didn't say he would eliminate the Department of Education. But she's misleading people on education just like she misled them 25 times on Obamacare, the VA scandal, border security and a host of other issues."

In an article for Greensboro's News & Record, Joe Killian writes that Hagan has made comments concerning the 7% pay raise for teachers in North Carolina, calling it "an election year band-aid". Tillis representatives responded that this pay raise was the largest raise in a generation. Hagan's crew shot back that teachers received an average 8% increase in the 2006-2007 budget year when she was chairwoman of the budget committee.

Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh is also running for the seat held by first-term Hagan.

The latest polling information from website Real Clear Politics showed Tillis holding a slight 1.3 point lead over Hagan, while the Huffington Post shows Hagan with a lead just less than 1 points. Haugh is under 10% of the vote in both polls.

08 14, 2014
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