Ellis, Hoy campaign for increased education funding in Senate race

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 23, 2020

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — Education is one of the top issues for the two Democrats running for N.C. Senate District 33.

Tarsha Ellis, a 46-year-old analyst for Ahold-Delhaize, advocates for increasing teacher pay to show the state values their talents and commitment to children.

Geoffrey Hoy, the 77-year-old chairman of the Rowan County Democratic Party and a retired pastor, says he stands for student-focused education, including as funding preschools, restoring teacher assistant positions, providing support services for students in need and increasing funding and flexibility for school districts.

Hoy said principals are pleased with the Rowan-Salisbury Schools renewal system that gives charter-like flexibilities for own curriculum and budgets. The General Assembly granted the status to the county in 2016. 

Hoy said educators can get more of a say with renewal by having “the opportunity to make things better and allow educators to be educators and not just jump through hoops put together by legislators who are not educators.”

Between educators and legislators, there is a gap in communication, he said. “It needs to be better, and that’s my commitment,” he said.

Ellis said schools need more funding, saying RSS can give students iPads, but other items like internet access at home are needed for students for local school to be successful. She also said it’s shameful that teachers don’t get adequate pay. Teachers are respected professionals and should get the pay they need, she said.

“If you think about teachers spending eight hours a day with their child, that’s significant,” she said. “I think they deserve a living wage — a good wage — to do important work.”

Her first step if elected to the N.C. General Assembly would be getting the budget passed. She noted that the current, stalled budget has money for teachers and improvements for school infrastructure.

“It’s time for all this discord to fall by the wayside,” Ellis said. “We really need to work together to get things accomplished, because that’s not doing anyone any good.”

Ellis has two students who were or are currently in Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

Funding, she said, shouldn’t stop at paying for resources. It’s important to revitalize the schools, too. She said more than half of the school buildings in North Carolina are 50 years old or older. Ten of the 18 elementary schools in the county are more than 50 years old. The average capital needs for those schools is $2.7 million, according to a 2018 report compiled by the Board of Education.

Ellis said it is impressive the creativity educators have to teach their students, but “we need to have a continuous improvement in education and getting that funding is critical.”

Hoy said the funding-per-student is too low.

Funding needs to go to ensuring quality teachers are in every classroom and quality a principal in every school, he said, adding it should provide at-risk students with support services and revise testing programs to allow students to be better prepared for a job or higher education. He wants to get rid of the A-F grading system in which the state assigns letters to individual schools based primarily on test scores.

Hoy said he wanted to lift some of the burden off teachers by providing a living wage. He talked about the “backpack buddies” program that sends students home with food.

“Why don’t we raise the salaries of the people so they can buy their kids some food?” he questioned.

Early voting is currently under way and continues until Feb. 29. Primary election day is March 3.

The winner of the primary will take on N.C. Sen. Carl Ford, a Republican.