Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Republican's Education Problem

D.G. Martin, a Democrat and current print, radio and TV personality, who seems to have done a little bit of everything including running for U.S Senate, was a guest panelist at the latest Civitas luncheon along with former Supreme Court Justice and current Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Orr.

They were discussing the latest Civitas Poll which indicated high levels of frustration with North Carolina’s public schools. For example, one question asked “If money was not an issue, would you send your child to private or parochial school instead of a public school?” 49% said yes they would send their child to private school, while only 40% said they would stay in public school.

Many of the conservative attendees were frustrated that the public doesn’t like the way the public schools are run, yet they elect Democrats to lead the state government, often because their perceive Democrats to be stronger on education. But if they don’t like the schools, why not give Republicans a chance to fix them, they said.

D.G. describes this discussion in better detail and provides his explanation in his latest newspaper column. This quote summarizes it pretty well:
“The public worries that Republicans don’t really believe in public schools. It may not be fair. Republicans might really strongly want to help the schools. But their overall message of cutting government to save money and lower taxes comes across as a plan to cut resources to our schools rather than to strengthen them.”

It’s an interesting argument. Republicans are in a bind because two of their messages are seemingly incongruous, cutting taxes/government and strengthening schools.

My two cents: The problem isn’t the incongruity, it’s about priorities. Education is the number one issue for Democrats on the state level and so their concern for schools comes across as more sincere. Education is lower on the priority scale for Republicans behind cutting taxes, stopping illegal immigration, and other social issues.

Take a look at the NC GOP Platform. Education is Article #7. Unfortunately for comparisons sake, the Democratic Platform is arranged alphabetically.

But it is still could be a problem for Democrats that their favorite issue, public education, isn't very popular.

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