Attendees of the debate tonight between Democratic gubernatorial Jack Markell and John Carney on Education pretty much filled the lower space of the Grand and there were some folks who ventured up to the (cordoned off) area upstairs. Markell supporters were very visible – ranging from the kids outside with signs and cheers (having some fun with folks going into the building, I might add) to a fair number of attendees wearing their Markell pins. If I am judging reaction to applause lines correctly, though, there were plenty of Carney supporters in the house.
It was a very civilized event – the candidates certainly were friendly and gracious to each other. The format was very focused (I really liked this), the moderators kept it all moving (and the candidates themselves were good about sticking to the rules) and the audience was polite and engaged. This was the first time that I’ve seen either of these candidates in person and both did well in this format – although I kept getting the impression that Markell might have been happier moving around on the stage.
A question by question recap would be tedious (plus I think that the WNJ is supposed to have some video up on their “redesigned” website Friday), but here are some of my impressions from the event:
- Both men were certain that successful education outcomes were a team affair (including teachers, principals, aids and other social services staff for those kids who need that), but Markell included parents more often as a key part of the mix. Carney’s portrayal of kids at risk often seemed to convey a view of these kids as potential clients of the system, which I think that a better emphasis is parents or guardians in the mix would ameliorate.
- DSTP came under some real fire from both, but I came away thinking that Markell was more unequivocal about that. I am not sure why, because both wanted to see it go and see it replaced with growth measurement assessments or adaptive tests that would be given at regular intervals throughout the school year. Markell cited Oregon as a place where this regime appears to be working and even though they test more students, it costs less than that DE pays. Mentioning riding the classroom of the DSTP got lots of applause each time it was brought up.
- They read a question from Dave Burris re: support for more Charter Schools. Markell had the more interesting answer in looking at almost a decade or more of data to review how these schools fit into the overall education system. He talked about looking at performance of these schools as well as the intention of the performance of these schools within the system. If I get what he was saying properly, these schools were set up to be fairly entrepreneurial entities and they need to survive that way. Carney said something similar.
- Both supported a Gifted and Talented Program; both supported some additional Arts Programs in schools; both supported Early Childhood Education; both noted that the challenge was how to pay for any of these.
- Neither supported the elimination of local property taxes in favor of full state funding for schools. Both noted that the state was in no position to replace these funds.
- When asked about getting to the teacher pay for performance as outlined in Vision 2015, Markell said that he would not support it as long as the measurement tool remained the DSTP. Carney focused on school teams for better outcomes and finding a way via bonuses or something similar to reward performance.
Bottom line is that there is some light, but not much, between these candidates’ education policies, at least as they were presented in this venue. Both referred to more details on programs at their websites.
This debate is the first in a series – the next is supposed to be on 4 April (on Health Care), and more in May and June. I enjoyed this one and hope to get to the others.
Did any of you go? (There were cameras everywhere, but I don’t know if this was broadcast tonight.) Share your impressions (and correct my reporting) and tell me which of these candidates’ approach to solving the education issues in Delaware appeals to you or tell me where you think they are not approaching the problem.