After a brief update on the legislative session’s progress Thursday at Knightdale Town Hall, State Representative Chris Malone fielded questions from eastern Wake residents.
Most of the evening, pushed at a hurried pace, involved questions by the handful of attendees about early childhood education.
In the budget that is still under consideration, state Pre-K funding is uncertain. The House has proposed a $5 million injection into early childhood education programming, although the Senate would like to cut that in half.
Knightdale Chamber of Commerce ambassador Lorrie Hargreaves, who also works with Wake County SmartStart, began by asking Malone about his vision for early childhood education.
“Pre-K is important,” he said. “By third or fourth grade, a lot of kids find themselves two to three years behind. We believe it’s not having had immersion in that ability to catch up in that Pre-K environment.”
Lorraine Dixon, who runs ABC Land, a daycare in Wendell, pushed the concern that the two women shared of funding being cut.
“What we’re asking and asking for the children in this area, because eastern Wake County doesn’t have a fighting chance if positions are cut, (is) we don’t know if we’ll get to keep them,” Dixon said. “The children need them.”
Hargreaves continued to press the issue for eastern Wake County specifically.
“We just recently had a Knightdale branding promotion ... trying to get people to move to this area, trying to attract people from the RTP area,” Hargreaves said. “One of the things that was a major concern that came up time and time again as reasons why people didn’t want to move to this area was education.”
Malone wasn’t shy about responding with his efforts during his time on the Wake County school board from 2009 to 2012, such as guiding Knightdale High School into a STEM school, improving management at Hodge Road Elementary School and other improvements.
But he blamed general slander and perceptions perpetuated by the media for negative perceptions of the area.
“That came to a crashing end because of everything that people were telling about us that wasn’t true,” Malone said.
“We want people to know good things are happening. But we need the leadership and we need people to push against that kind of mentality. We cannot have a county run by inside-of-the-beltline people because they take care of themelves.”
He added that the need to have eastern Wake County residents represented on the school board was the reason that he pushed the 2013 bill to redistrict elections for the school board.
“People from this area should be making the decisions (for this area),” he said.