10/09/08 — Gubernatorial candidates to discusss school choice in Durham

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Gubernatorial candidates to discusss school choice in Durham

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 9, 2008 1:46 PM

Both gubernatorial candidates have been invited to a free forum in Durham later this month designed to effect change in the state's educational policies.

Darrell Allison, president for Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, said the two-hour program on Oct. 28 will also spotlight children and families who have benefited from alternative forms of education -- particularly charter, home and private schooling.

Its premise is to portray "how important it is for us to get our children in the very best scenario possible," Allison said.

While it is scheduled close to the election, the forum's only political connection is to provide an opportunity for the candidates to hear directly from families not always represented, he said.

"We haven't had a forum of parents with children from these areas of education," he said. "I think that can be powerful."

The idea of having expanded school choice options is not new. It has also been presented as a "voucher" system where parents are given a waiver from enrolling only in public schools and having the option of choosing other routes.

"There are 14 states that have this already, and every one of them have it because it was done legislatively," Allison said. "So it's very important that our policymakers know where our citizens stand on this issue.

"It's not a political focus we want. We just think it's an opportunity, bringing people across the state up there."

It will not be a time of endorsing any particular candidate, Allison said, but rather a chance for leaders to hear other perspectives.

"It will be a powerful night because it's not radio talk or television talk. They'll hear directly form the parents," he said.

"We know one of them will be governor. ... On the flip side, whomever goes into the governor's mansion, we will know that they have heard from the people."

The "Parents and Children First: A Forum for Equal Opportunities in Education" event will feature several components -- student participation with performances from private and charter schools, messages from business leaders, community activists and clergy, as well as families who have benefited from having other educational options.

The public is encouraged to attend the free forum, which will be held at King's Park International Church in Durham.

To reserve a seat, register online at www.pefnc.org. For more information, call 1-888-97-PEFNC.