Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — In Wake County, the open-seat contest in N.C. House District 35 features two candidates with ties to the Wake County school board, which recently has been roiled with controversy over partisan politics, especially over student assignment policies. Current Wake County school board member Chris Malone, a Republican, faces Democrat Lori Millberg, who sat on the school board from 2005-09.
Legislative redistricting in 2011 created a new District 35 encompassing northeastern Wake County. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Jennifer Weiss was ineligible to run this year because she doesn’t reside in the new district.
The N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation says the mostly suburban district leans Republican and is likely to be among the 20 most competitive state House races in November.
Malone, a case manager for G4S Compliance and Investigations, was a Wake Forest town commissioner from 2001-05 before being elected to the school board in 2009.
Millberg, a former district attorney in Houston, Texas, has been the business manager for Raleigh-based law firm Millberg, Gordon and Stewart, PLLC, since it was co-founded in 1994 by her husband John.
In separate phone interviews for Carolina Journal, both Malone and Millberg said jobs and education are the top concerns for voters in their district. Malone added government growth at all levels as another voter concern.
Millberg believes investments in education are important for attracting companies to North Carolina. “I studied economics in college and know what it takes to meet a payroll as a small business manager,” said Millberg.
“We’re on the brink of a recovery, and North Carolina must be positioned to compete with the other 49 states,” Millberg said, “but education cuts made by Republican lawmakers have exacerbated unemployment. We need to do a better job of educating students.”
During the two-year Republican-led majority on the Wake County School Board, “we protected the classroom, cut bureaucracy, gave across-the-board raises to teachers, and kept the promise of neighborhood schools,” Malone said.
Malone supports completely lifting the cap on charter schools and giving greater flexibility to local schools to be innovative.
Millberg supports charter schools but said she’s concerned that they typically don’t have to take students who require transportation, are on free or reduced lunch, or have special needs.
Terry Stoops, director of research and education studies at the John Locke Foundation, told CJ that applications for charter school admission are randomly selected by lottery, meaning schools can’t pick and choose from among the most desirable who apply.
Moreover, Stoops took issue with the claims by progressive of “draconian” cuts in education by the recent session of the General Assembly. Many of the education reforms in the 2012-13 General Fund education budget “will strengthen accountability, improve teacher quality, and return some budgetary control to local school districts,” he wrote last summer.
Both candidates support merit pay for teachers. Malone advocates programs that have proved effective in raising student achievement and test scores. During her school board tenure, Millberg said they introduced the first merit pay program in Wake schools, but the conservative majority elected in 2009 did away with it.
Regarding economic incentives to attract new businesses, Millberg said she’d examine economic development policies to make sure taxpayers got a good return on their investment.
Malone’s preferred method of job creation would be creating a favorable economic climate overall to encourage business growth. Malone said he’d cut personal and corporate income taxes, cap the gasoline tax, and make North Carolina’s tax rates more competitive with our neighboring states. States that have enacted tax reform have lower unemployment rates and higher state GDP, Malone said.
Malone said he’d also follow the lead of Texas and other GOP-led states by refusing to comply with Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and state-based health care exchange provisions. “We don’t need a health insurance [Division of Motor Vehicles],” Malone said.
Karen McMahan is a contributor to Carolina Journal.