03/29/11 — Governor makes stop to discuss education

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Governor makes stop to discuss education

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on March 29, 2011 1:46 PM

KINSTON -- Gov. Beverly Perdue was in Lenoir County on Monday as part of her statewide tour to promote job creation and education protection as the General Assembly prepares its 2011-12 budget.

After touring West Pharmaceuticals, a business near Kinston that announced it would expand this month, Mrs. Perdue held a town hall forum at the Lenoir County Visitors Center, where she fielded questions, mostly about education and job growth.

While the legislature must decide how to account for a $2.4 billion budget shortfall, Mrs. Perdue said the General Assembly's focus should not deviate from the state's most important responsibilities.

"That's why I'm doing this," she said of her tour, which will take her to Whiteville, High Point, Charlotte and Winston-Salem in the coming weeks. "I'm trying to pull the conversation back to the core proficiencies of the state, which is jobs and education."

Mrs. Perdue explained that her proposed budget provided for the full protection of teachers and teaching assistants, adding that the state is focused "like a laser" on education.

"I'm counting on educators across the state to make sure the focus remains on student achievement. It's not about the teachers or principals; it's about the students," she said. "This state has been transformed by education. It's why we're not like the rest of the South. There has never been a governor in the history of this state who turned his back on education. I will not be the first."

She also cautioned the public about the rhetoric of lawmakers, pointing out that a proposed increase in class sizes equates to the elimination of teaching jobs. She estimated that increasing class size by just three students would mean the loss of more than 10,000 teachers.

She said the General Assembly's final budget needs to provide for more protection of educators "or we'll be there until the cows come home."

Although Mrs. Perdue said after the forum that the responsibility of job growth rests mostly with the business sector, she spoke extensively during the meeting about how important North Carolina's performance-based incentives are in attracting new businesses to the state.

"We all want the jobs, and we're all fighting for the same jobs," she said of governors across the country, before pointing a finger at the legislature, which has proposed to reduce funds for corporate incentives. "This General Assembly doesn't understand. They want to shut down the state. Without incentives, the state will shut down for business."

Mrs. Perdue said her budget proposes lowering North Carolina's corporate income tax by 2 percent to make it the third lowest state in the country.

"That will bring jobs," she said.

But beyond creating an environment in North Carolina that coaxes investment from businesses, Mrs. Perdue said the state's responsibility is simply to provide services and operate as leanly and efficiently as possible. This, she said, means no pay raises for state employees, though she also pointed out that her budget didn't call for furloughs either. She said the state government, like businesses and other governments across the country, will continue to do more with less.