Thom Tillis on Education
Who made it: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and National Education Association Advocacy Fund in separate TV ads and Sen. Kay Hagan in the first debate.
The facts: The $500 million amount comes from the continuation budget put out each year by the state Department of Public Instruction. This is the amount DPI says it would cost to keep programs going at the current level when factoring in the enrollment of more students. The 2013 continuation budget called for $23.6 billion over two years. The legislature's budget included $23.1 billion over two years, or $482 million short of what DPI said was needed. Tillis voted for that budget.
The $500 million is an overstatement. Some also argue that underfunding is not a cut.
The DPI says the money budgeted for textbooks, instructional supplies, technology, literacy coaches, and the like, has been reduced by $1 billion since 2008-2009.
"I'm not willing to settle just for a national standard if we think we can set a new standard and a best practice," Tillis said, pivoting to an attack on the federal Education Department as "a bureaucracy of 5,000 people in Washington" who make an average salary of over $100,000.
While criticizing the Education Department is common among Republicans, Tillis was standing next to the younger brother of President George W. Bush, whose signature accomplishments include No Child Left Behind, the sweeping federal education law run by the department.
Bush sensed the need to play down any differences: "We can argue about what to call these things," he said, but maintained that the focus ought to be on ensuring high standards.
All four candidates said they oppose Common Core education standards. Brannon said he believe in no federal and state education standards. "Common Core became law under Thom's watch," he said. "[It] destroyed education with the Department of Education."
Tillis said he opposes Common Core and he identified the U.S. Education Department when asked to identify a federal cabinet agency he would eliminate. "We existed for more than a century without one," said Tillis, offering a nuanced explanation. "That's the first department I'd look at...At some point, I'd wonder whether or not it needs to exist in its current form."
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