HOT SPRINGS — Facing school officials Tuesday, the four candidates for Arkansas governor agreed on a range of education topics, from expanding broadband Internet service to favoring school choice to support for an end to state involvement in the long-running Pulaski County school desegregation case.
Democrat Mike Ross joined Republicans Curtis Coleman, Debra Hobbs and Asa Hutchinson at a forum held as part of the fall conference of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center.
On the subject of school vouchers, Hutchinson and Ross said they opposed them. Hobbs, a former teacher, said she would consider authorizing state vouchers for children to attend private schools. Coleman said state education funding should follow the child, even if the student chooses to attend a private school.
“We won’t make public-school problems better by taking money away from them,” Ross said, adding that he wants to ensure that the best ideas arising from public charter schools are adopted by other public schools.
Hutchinson said his children attended both public and private schools, but he said he has not seen a private-school voucher proposal he’s liked up to this point.
Hobbs said she felt differently in the past but changed after her son, who has Down’s syndrome, made tremendous progress after attending a private school meeting his needs.
Each child should be able to attend a school best meeting his or her need, whether it is public or private, she said.
Coleman said by leveling the playing field, public schools would be pushed to excel.
Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, is prevented by terms limits from seeking re-election in 2014.
Lewis Delavan writes for the Hot Springs Village Voice