RALEIGH — Northeast Raleigh voters in the pivotal District 3 contest for the Wake County school board got clear messages Wednesday on how the candidates feel about the changes that have been made in the past two years.
Incumbent Kevin Hill, a member of the school board's Democrat minority, spoke in support of maintaining economically integrated schools, a policy eliminated by the Republican board majority.
"I do believe economic integration in the schools is very important," Hill said at the forum held at the Church of the Nativity. "The research is very, very clear."
But Hill's challengers were more supportive of the student assignment changes that are expected to have more children going to schools in their communities.
"My ideal solution of a student assignment plan is students going to school close to home while ensuring schools have the resources they need," said Heather Losurdo, a parent of school-age children and a former small businesswoman.
Jennifer Mansfield said the move to community-based schools will make it easier for parental involvement to occur. The school activist said families of low-income children will now have the option of deciding whether they want to go to a school that's far away from where they live.
More than 100 people attended the forum sponsored by WakeUP Wake County and the League of Women Voters of Wake County.
District 3 is key
The District 3 race is considered a swing seat on the school board. Democrats need to hold the seat and win the other four on the ballot to regain the majority. Republicans want to take District 3 in a bid to expand their majority.
The situation in District 3 has gotten cloudier since groups that support the board majority split into two camps. The Wake County Republican Party is supporting Losurdo while the Wake Schools Community Alliance is backing Mansfield.
Eric Squires, the fourth candidate in District 3, also attended the forum. He is the only candidate in the district who has indicated he plans to spend less than $1,000.
"I don't have a large national committee influencing me," Squires said. "I'm not accepting money from any of the large dogs out there."
Hill, who was elected to the board in 2007, argued his 35 years of experience as an educator gives him a breadth of experience none of his opponents can match.
Remarks target Hill
"I can connect the dots between what seems like a minor budget cut and what that means in the classroom," Hill said.
During the forum, Mansfield went after Hill on multiple occasions.
"He's stonewalled and been very obstructionist in trying to get any positive changes made in the system," Mansfield said.
The candidates touched on a variety of issues, including school funding and magnet schools.
Hill and Mansfield said they support asking for more funding to operate and build new schools. Losurdo said she wants to examine the budget first before asking county commissioners to increase funding.
"I believe we have wasteful spending in our school system now," Losurdo said.
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