Education Dominant Issue in Nash County's Open State HD 25 | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal, and written by Gregory Childress, contributor.

    N.C. House District 25 (Northern two-thirds of Nash County)

  • James Gailliard, Democrat. Occupation: Pastor of Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount. Education: Morehouse College, Moody Bible Institute, Trinity Theological Seminary, degrees in biochemistry, theology, pastoral ministry, business administration. Career highlights: Morehouse College Board of Preachers. Board of Visitors member at N.C. Wesleyan College and Shaw University School of Divinity.
  • John Check, Republican. Occupation: Senior advisor to the president of N.C. Wesleyan College. Education: Dallas Theological Seminary, master's degree. Southeastern Seminary, Wake Forest, master's and doctorate degrees. Career highlights: Former pastor of St. Paul's United Methodist Church. Founder of Dallas Christian Video.
  • Nick Taylor, Libertarian. Occupation: Social Studies teacher at Northern Nash High School. Education: N.C. Wesleyan College, bachelor's in history. N.C. State University, obtained teacher's license. Attended Barton College.

    Education is a priority for the candidates running for the open seat in N.C. House District 25, but their focus is on different aspects of classroom instruction.

    Democrat James Gailliard, Republican John Check, and Libertarian Nick Taylor are hoping to succeed four-term state Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash. He did not run for re-election, but endorsed Check as his successor.

    The North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation, which closely tracks state elections and voter behavior patterns, rates the district as leaning Democratic. This will be the first general election in the district since it was redrawn in 2017 to comply with a federal court order which found 28 legislative districts were gerrymandered using race as a predominant factor.

    Gailliard lost to Collins in 2016. This is Taylor's first time running for office.

    The candidates differed slightly on what areas of K-12 education to focus on.

    Gailliard, who serves on My Future NC - a K-16 blue ribbon panel created by UNC President Margaret Spellings - wants to focus on expanding pre-K opportunities.

    "We shouldn't have thousands of children on a waiting list trying to get into proper Head Start programs. That just cannot happen," Gailliard said. "So step one is getting every child into a good, quality Head Start program."

    Gailliard said getting children off to a good start helps prepare them for testing, and ultimately for graduation.

    Check wants to encourage more parents to get involved with their children's education.

CJ photo by Kari Travis

    "The No. 1 issue is parental involvement, and the lack of parental involvement in our school system," Check said. "When you give parents choice they tend to re-engage. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but there's got to be a way of giving more parents choices."

    Taylor, who is a teacher and a parent, said he has seen all the flaws and accomplishments of North Carolina's education system.

    "Unfortunately the current curriculum in public schools isn't properly preparing our youth past high school," Taylor said. "Parents, educators, community members, and more importantly students should have more choices in education."

    The candidates agree there is a lack of job opportunities for their district.

    "As a representative from Nash County, I would like to make it easier for businesses to open up in Nash County and our state, therefore reducing the unnecessary steps and run-around that citizens have to take to create a business," Taylor said.

    Check, too, wants to remove the barriers to work by reducing taxes and red tape on businesses.

    "Rocky Mount has a higher than average percentage of people on food stamps," Check said. "As simple as it sounds, when the economy gets better it's a rising tide that floats all boats."

    Gailliard wants to address the poverty in his district by bolstering educational opportunities. He's not against school choice options like charter schools or private religious schools, but he wants to make sure those schools are being held accountable.

    "I lean on the side of saying choice is good, but I do think we are lacking some measurements and some guidelines," Gailliard said. "So I think if we're going to send public dollars into private environments it needs to be sent with very, very clear expectations on what needs to happen in those schools."

    Gailliard said that education means something different for every child. For some children it means going into technical school while for others its about preparing for a four year university or community college.

    "We need to create access routes for people, for everyone who lives within our community," Gailliard said. "I think that's just a collaborative effort around education, the business community, government, and the overall faith and not-for-profit community working together."

    Taylor is on board with expanding educational opportunities to ensure more North Carolinians are able to prosper.

    "Another way to attract businesses to Nash County is to improve our educational system," Taylor said. "Our students should be able to transition into the workforce, branches of the military, and post-high school education successfully."

    There are six proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. Gailliard opposes all six, and argues each is problematic in its own way. But two of the amendments stand out to him as being particularly troublesome.

    "The amendments around judicial vacancies, and the merger of the elections and the ethics boards, for me those are equally damaging for our state," Gailliard said.

    Check, on the other hand, supports all six of the proposed constitutional amendments.

    "I'm all for it. I think it speaks for itself," Check said. "I think that Marsy's Law is a no brainer. We absolutely need to support that, And the hunting amendment, I think, is a pushback designed against the criminalization of hunting."

    Taylor said citizens of North Carolina deserve protection of their inalienable rights, and not more restrictions.

    On legislative redistricting, which has dominated the political debate for the past few years, the candidates differ on who should be responsible for the process.

    "It's very clear to me that the North Carolina Constitution gives the authority for districting to the legislature," Check said. "We have to continually look at a better way of doing that, but it's the authority of the legislature to do that."

    Check said redistricting hasn't been beneficial for his district, where it went from leaning Republican to now leaning Democratic, but he isn't convinced lawmakers should be removed from the process.

    "I think we need to follow our constitution, and I don't think we should be intimidated by the court system," Check said.

    Gailliard said both parties have proven to be untrustworthy when it comes to redistricting.

    "I think both political parties have proven that we need to get out of the business of redistricting," Gailliard said. "I think it needs to be put into the hands of a third party with very specific measurements and metrics so there's checks and balances and it can be auditable. That way we can actually find out if those standards that we set in place are actually being met."

    Taylor also said a nonpartisan, independent body should be in charge of redistricting instead of the General Assembly.

    "Unfortunately, both major political parties have redrawn legislative districts in order to benefit one's political party and not the people of the North Carolina," Taylor said.
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