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2020 Candidates for NC State Treasurer

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

Our #voteyourvoice series continues... PENC encourages our members to take the time to do your homework and to learn about the candidates who are seeking your vote. PENC will not endorse candidates and will not tell you how to vote, but we do believe it is important for you to make an informed decision at the poll. To facilitate your information gathering, we put together the list of questions for the candidates of some statewide offices to elicit their views on a number of topics of interest to the education community. Their unedited responses will be published for your review beginning with the candidates for governor. Others will follow over the next few days. Our sincerest thanks to the responsive candidates who have provided you with this valuable information. We encourage you to visit their websites and consider their qualifications and goals on issues that are important to you. Most importantly, we encourage you to get out and vote! #voteyourvoice

2020 Candidates for NC State Treasurer

Speak Out on the Issues

Ronnnie Chatterji (D)          Dale Folwell (R)

Question 1: Demands on Teachers

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic how do you plan to address increasing                    demands on teachers, including lack of support staff?

 Answer from Ronnie Chatterji:

My mother is a teacher who is going back to work this Fall so I think about this challenge every day. We are asking so much from our teachers, but are not providing the resources they need to succeed. As Treasurer, I will serve on the North Carolina State Board of Education where I will be a tireless advocate for our educators, support staff and all public school employees. While the Treasurer does not have a role in approving or setting the education budget, I will be a vocal proponent for increasing funding to raise salaries and increasing the number of support staff in schools and classrooms. As an economist, I will use the best available evidence to persuade leaders across the state that we must take these steps for North Carolina to compete in the global economy. 

Further, by protecting pensions and health care I can ensure that our educators have some peace of mind during this difficult period. Our current Treasurer has endangered the pension fund and state health plan with risky bets. I will bring a new approach to the Department of State Treasurer, collaborating with all stakeholders and using evidence, not partisan ideology, to make decisions. I will hire a permanent Chief Investment Officer and follow a publicly disclosed investment policy. In doing so, I will ensure that our educators have the security they have earned through their service to our state. 

 Answer from Dale Folwell:

As State Treasurer, my major responsibility has been to preserve and strengthen the retirement/healthcare benefits of teachers and staff.  As their post Covid demands increase, NOT having to worry about benefits is critical.  We have eliminated all costs for testing and treatment.

Question 2: School Safety

The state has invested a great deal of resources into school safety                      including SROs and active shooter training, but we lack resources in mental health. What is your plan to increase mental health resources for kids?

 Answer from Ronnie Chatterji:

As a parent of three young kids, keeping them safe is always our number one priority. For years, Republican legislators in Raleigh- my opponent included- have underfunded our schools. Too often that means nurses, counselors and social workers must travel between multiple schools. I fully support an increase in funding so that we can have nurses, counselors and social workers in every school and bring North Carolina in line with national standards.

 Answer from Dale Folwell:

Having mental health services has never been more important for kids. Covid-19 has not only introduced a health risk, but a mental health risk as well. I am not the subject matter expert on how to increase resources.

Question 3: School Grades

PENC recognizes that the current system is unfair. How do you think schools should be evaluated? What do you envision as a better plan to evaluate schools?

 Answer from Ronnie Chatterji:

While the Treasurer does not determine this school evaluation system, I would support changing these metrics to include the services schools provide to students as well as evaluations from educators, parents and students. Using a broader set of metrics can provide a more informed assessment of a school’s strengths and weaknesses. Using flawed measures leads to poor decisions and we should improve this system.

 Answer from Dale Folwell:

My experience as an 8 year member of the WS/Forsyth County Board of Education is a reminder that often “one size fits none” in terms of school evaluations.

Question 4: Recruitment and retention

 Starting in 2021, newly hired teachers will not receive health insurance in retirement. How much impact do you feel this has on teacher recruitment and retention? Are you in favor of repealing this state law? 

 Answer from Ronnie Chatterji:

This change will reduce recruitment and retention of educators. My parents are both public educators and I know that health care benefits are an important part of any compensation package. As Treasurer, I will be in charge of administering the State Health Plan and I will advocate for repealing this law. Additionally, I support reinstating master’s pay, and ensuring our educators do not reach a ceiling in terms of step increases. 

 Answer from Dale Folwell:

I was not involved in the decision to stop POST retirement healthcare. I am involved in lowering healthcare costs for current employees. We have frozen family premiums for 4 years in light of rising healthcare costs. We also just renegotiated our Medicare Advantage contract which will save over $1 BILLION dollars over 5 years. All those savings will go toward the $32 BILLION unfunded healthcare liability that exist. I am in favor of finding the funding to provide a 401/457/403 match.

Question 5:  Diversity in the Classroom

According to EdNC and also in light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement, “NC public schools are becoming increasingly diverse with students of color now making up more than 50 percent of total enrollment. The state’s teaching work force, however, does not reflect that diversity, with about 80 percent of teachers both white and female.” What will you do to encourage recruitment and retention of educators from under-represented groups?

 Answer from Ronnie Chatterji:

There is an emerging body of evidence that more diversity in the education workforce can lead to better outcomes for students. North Carolina should be doing all we can to encourage a diverse group of educators to step into our classrooms and work with our students. We should restore the Teaching Fellows program and increase incentives to recruit and retain educators of color, specifically those who are already in North Carolina. As Treasurer, I can support these efforts by protecting pensions and health care and ensuring that our educators have the most competitive benefits package possible. 

 Answer from Dale Folwell:

It starts with recruitment into the education degree programs.

Question 6: Teacher frustrations

Teacher frustrations and needs are well-publicized in sources like the Teacher Working Conditions survey. What are the most important teacher issues that you will address in your administration, such as work-load, compensation, veteran teachers, and school calendar and other charter-like flexibility? 

 Answer from Ronnie Chatterji:

Many teachers I talk to are frustrated with the mismanagement of their pension dollars and the threats to their health care coverage. The current Treasurer has cost our pension fund billions of dollars due to investment mistakes and introduced a risky health care plan that will put the State Health Plan in danger. Teachers want a fresh start with someone who isn’t a politician and will use data to make the best decisions for their retirement and health care. If elected, I will fix these problems and allow our teachers to focus on what they do best, working with our students in the classroom.

 Answer from Dale Folwell:

Reducing complexity and pushing the power away from Raleigh will positively affect teacher working conditions. I have always supported letting schools open so that mid-term exams can be completed BEFORE the Christmas break and as previously stated, preserving, strengthening and sustaining the pension/healthcare plans for this and the next generation of public service employees.

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