The First Debate: Education

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.

19 comments on this post.
  1. liberalgeek:

    Nice job Cassandra. Mrs. Geek would have killed me if I tried to make it up there tonight (I just got home yesterday). I will try to make it to some of the others.

    Steve Newton also has a post up on the event. His daughter’s impression cracks me up.

  2. Nancy Willing:

    Beat me to it Geek! I just read Steve’s post and put it on ATHF (so far so good).

  3. Rob Foraker:

    I guess I didn’t pay the fee to be in the debate..

  4. Rob Foraker:

    Who sponsored this debate??

  5. Rob Foraker:

    Is this democracy or communism at work…

  6. liberalgeek:

    It’s Darwinism, Rob.

  7. Mike Mahaffie:

    Nice report. I’ll head over to read Steve’s in just a moment. Was there any mention of School District consolidation? I’ve been thinking about that again as we hear about needing to cut more from the state budget. Why do we have 19 sets of administrative staff to run a school system that could probably be run with 4 districts? (Yes, this is one place were I agree with Mike Protack, though I have been wondering this for at least ten years now)

  8. Rebecca:

    Let’s see Rob, two guys who have spent most of their lives in public service, yes!, public service, want to run for Governor. Somebody completely unknown decides he should be Governor. Who has earned the right to be up on that stage?

    Heaven save me from people who have never run, held office, or done very much at all in the public arena, other than spout opinion on the radio and the blogs, then wake up one morning thinking they should be Governor, or Lt. Governor, or U.S. Congressman.

    It ranks up there with the lady who went to a lot of dinners with generals thinking that qualifies her to be commander-in-chief.

    This is a tough business and you’ve got to earn the right to run. If that sounds condescending, it is!

  9. FSP:

    If helping to preside over the collapse of the state government, as both Markell and Carney have done, is qualification to run for Governor, then this is not the state I thought it was.

    Rebecca, you are a classic entitlement Democrat. People like you are how we got the most expensive state government in the lower 48 states.

  10. Steve Newton:

    Mike
    They did mention consolidation–Carney said he was for consolidating purchases, transport, etc. by county as a possible answer, but not consolidating the districts. Frankly, to me, a pandering answer. Markell didn’t give that much.

    I don’t like Carney at all, but I will admit that he delivered more actual straight answers than Markell by a narrow margin.

  11. DemsDoItRight:

    Rob, you need to file in order to be considered a candidate. Maybe that’s why you weren’t invited.

  12. Mike Mahaffie:

    Thanks, Steve. That sort of thing might be a start, but the political battle that it would take would be such that I’d say go whole hog or not at all.

  13. Steve Newton:

    I thought Rob was running as a Republican, in which case even filing wouldn’t help him get invited to a Dem primary debate….

  14. liberalgeek:

    Rob has started his own party, although the know-nothings may still be kicking around. So when the Rob Foraker Party has their debate to determine their candidate, hopefully Rob will get invited to join that.

    It will probably be held at a Wawa.

  15. cassandra_m:

    Mike, The Atlantic Monthly ran this article: First, Kill All the School Boards a couple of months back that you may be interested in. The history of school boards is useful, as is his description as to how school boards became their own worst enemy.

  16. disbelief:

    As to the year-round school issue, I remember being a kid. If someone made me go to school 11 months a year when I was a teenager, I’d turn them in to the Bush administration as Al Queda terrorists.

  17. Mike Mahaffie:

    Thank you, Cassandra. That was an interesting read.

  18. Protack for Governor:

    There were quite a few talking points but few decisive answers or never a mention of how to pay for any of the choices.

    Sadly, there was never a mention by either guy about what education meant to them as a Father, that was lacking.

    The hosts were very gracious and allowed me to record the same questions before the event.

    Also, both guys spent 30 seconds praising Valerie Woodruff, pandering at it worst.

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