The Transylvania Times -

By Derek McKissock
News Editor 

Rick Wood Rallies Local Democrats - Brevard NC

 

Rick Wood

As a former educator, Rick Wood said he's been "particularly upset" by the current state budget and its impact on public schools.

Wood, the Democratic Party candidate running for the N.C. Senate District 48 seat currently held by Republican Tom Apodaca, was the keynote speaker Saturday at the annual Transylvania County Democratic Party Convention.

Wood retired in 2006 as a history teacher and basketball coach at West Henderson High School. He's served on the Henderson County Board of Public Education since 2008.

Wood said he decided to run because he is "disturbed" at the direction the state is taking, specifically the decisions by the Republican-led General Assembly.

"For the first time since Reconstruction, North Carolina has a General Assembly and a (governor) controlled by the extreme factions of the Republican majority, and it means their legislative super majority is unchecked," he said. "The leaders are sometimes circumventing the normal legislative process to push through their agenda."

Some of the "worst legislation," Wood said, came at the end of the session, often with little time for lawmakers to read and understand what they were voting for.

Voters deserve, he said, legislating to be done in an "open and deliberative way that invites input from all sides, even from Democrats."

Wood highlighted changes made in the recent session, which he believes have had a negative impact:

• Tax giveaways for the top 1 percent instead of tax breaks for working North Carolina families people. The elimination of the earned-income tax credit and credits for child care and education expenses means the state will be taking more of residents' "hard-earned money" in the name of "tax reform."

Working- and middleclass families "can't afford" this "tax reform," Wood said.

• Lax oversight of natural resources have contributed to "conditions that make accidents likely to happen."

"State lawmakers seem more concerned about not offending Duke Energy than insisting our natural resources are protected," Wood said.

The coal ash ponds need to be cleaned up, and the "burden" shouldn't be on Duke Energy customers, he said.

• Election law changes, such as cutting back on the amount of early voting days, that make it more difficult to vote.

"We must make sure that all voters have equal access to the voting booth," he said.

• Gutting of unemployment benefits when the economy is "barely getting back on its feet."

• Refusal to accept federal Medicaid dollars that would expand health care for working people.

Education

Wood called public education his "big passion."

His parents, brother and sister were teachers and his wife was a teacher.

"Our public school system in the country is vitally important," he said. "It gives everyone, regardless of their background, the chance to live the American dream. Anyone who takes advantage of a public education can go as far as their ambition or talent will take them."

He said the local school systems are doing an "outstanding job," but they have an "increasingly more difficult time each year due to the cut backs and the decisions made in Raleigh."

Last legislative session started as an "attack on public education," Wood said. Republican legislators took a "meat cleaver" to the education budget, cutting 9,306 positions, including teacher assistants, he said.

Cuts in per pupil funding mean North Carolina now ranks 48th in the country in spending.

Other cuts Wood talked about include $45.7 million in classroom supplies and $77.4 million in textbook funding.

Wood said no pay increases for educators highlights "North Carolina's race to the bottom of salaries."

In 2007-08, the state was ranked 25th in teacher pay. Last year it was 46th.

"We are losing good teachers who are going to Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia because they can make up to $10,000 more," Wood said. "This is not the North Carolina that any of us recognize. The tough economic times we face require steadiness, innovative thought and a redoubling of commitment to bedrock principles, like public education, that have brought our state this far."

While cutting public education, the legislature, Wood said, created a $50 million school voucher program.

This is taxpayer funds for "private schools" with "little accountability, " he said, noting the program's delay as it's being challenged in the courts.

In closing, Wood noted the role of money in campaigning and how former N.C. Sen. John Snow was defeated.

"Money in politics is destroying our democracy," Wood said. "We've got to do something about it."

Wood said he hopes Democrats learned a lesson when Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2010.

Wood said he was impressed by the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, who spoke in January at the Porter Center.

Barber's speech inspired Wood to "stand up and fight for what I believe is right."

He said he was "prepared to take that fight to Raleigh, but I need your support."

Speakers

As well as Wood, several Democratic Party candidates or their surrogates spoke at Saturday's convention, including Lee McMinn and Sam Edney, who are running for county commission; Norm Bossert, who is running for the N.C. House; and Betty Scruggs, who plans to file for the Board of Education race.

 
 

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