Pearce on Education


Last week I blogged that Governor Perdue was doing a better job than her poll numbers suggest. But I’m starting to think she’s snake-bit.
Her signature action, her big bold idea of appointing a state education CEO, got thrown out by a judge. Now Bill Harrison has graciously retreated from the battlefield.
Predictably, well-meaning editorial writers suggest that the governor fight the good fight and spend what little political capital she has changing the education governance system.
That would be dumb. That’s about nothing but process. And she would probably lose. Read my lips: Voters are not going to give up their right to vote for the state superintendent.

You can see the attack lines: “Let the Governor appoint the head of the schools? Like how Mike Easley appointed the head of the N.C. State Trustees?”
So what does she do now?
Here’s a suggestion: Come up with a big idea that is about education, not governance.
Like Jim Hunt’s Smart Start or raising teacher pay to the national average (whichNorth Carolina did in the 90s).
Something substantive that gets people’s toes tapping, something that would actually improve the quality of education.
Yes, education governance is a disaster in North Carolina. Always has been. Maybe always will be.
So it was for Governor Hunt. Back in the 1970s, he had to resolve a running feud between the Superintendent (Craig Phillips) and the Chairman of the Board of Education (Dallas Herring). Hunt replaced Herring.
Then Hunt’s arch-enemy, Lt. Governor Jimmy Green, tried to get himself elected board chairman. Hunt beat that.
When Hunt came back in 1992, Bob Etheridge was state superintendent. Hunt didn’t really care. He had his own education priorities, and he made them the state’s priorities.
Perdue has now wasted her first six months on a losing cause. It’s time to find something progressive – and popular – to fight for.



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