Education moves to front of Mountcastle’s early campaign

mhankerson@newsobserver.comMarch 7, 2014 

Brian Mountcastle talks with Chris Kennedy, who stopped by Mountcastle's open house at the Knightdale Recreation Center. Mountcastle asked Kennedy to tell him what some of his concerns are in the area.

MECHELLE HANKERSON — mhankerson@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Brian Mountcastle knows there are several key issues he’ll have to address in his campaign for the District 35 seat in the N.C. House, but at his first open house event meant to hear from residents, it was clear education was one of the more popular topics he’ll have to tackle.

Mountcastle, a first-time candidate and longtime Wake County resident, graduated from high school in Raleigh and has two children in Knightdale schools.

At the open house at the Knightdale Recreation Center last week, the conversation about education turned toward a discussion about charter schools.

“(Charter schools are) a movement that’s well-intentioned as long as it’s managed properly,” Mountcastle said.

Mountcastle’s event was open for constituents to stop by and ask questions or let Mountcastle know more issues they want addressed. Chris Kennedy, a local educator, talked with Mountcastle about charters and other alternative education options.

Kennedy talked to Mountcastle about some of the requirements charters put into place that often push low-income, miniority families out of charter schools.

Mountcastle said his biggest problems with charter schools is that many don’t provide transportation or food services. Kennedy, however, explained that some charters have other requirements, like asking for parents to volunteer, that would mean working parents may not be able to accomodate the request.

“They’re supposed to be free and open but they’re not,” Kennedy told Mountcastle. “They technically are (but they’re not).”

Mountcastle said he thought charter schools helped identify areas that have “pockets” of under-achieverment and try to remedy the problem, but they are also business operations.

“I definitely believe in education and I definitely believe charter and private schools are viable options, but they’re options,” he said.

Mountcastle talked with a group of six about the issues of education and what could be done to remedy it. While there were discussions about what problems the county faced in education, Mountcastle didn’t offer any solid ideas of how to solve those problems.

Instead, the informal meet-and-greet was used for him to get a better idea of what sorts of issues he would need to address.

Candidates begin early campaigns

Mountcastle, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the N.C. House seat, enters in a race with incumbent Chris Malone.

Malone visited Zebulon Town Hall in January, where he discussed a few different topics, including the state’s new Common Core standards.

While Malone didn’t discuss private and charter schools like Mountcastle, he did say he felt like Common Core was rolled out too quickly and was causing problems for students.

“(Students) don’t have the reference material, they don’t have the books and we rolled (Common Core) out before we fully had it all implemented and the training program done,” he said at the meeting.

Malone took his time in Zebulon to address other state issues, like problems with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

At his event, Mountcastle briefly discussed transportation and problems the state has face since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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