Rep. Quinn Johnson (D- Middletown) and Republican Matt Brown may have their differences, but both men value education. The two men have backgrounds in early childhood education and made schools a focus of a debate Oct. 18.
Both candidates seeking the 8th district House of Representative seat have strong education backgrounds and are passionate about schooling.
In an Oct. 18 candidate forum hosted by The Middletown Transcript, Democratic incumbent Quinn Johnson and Republican Matt Brown debated several topics, including the state's education system.
One of these points was the state's Race to the Top initiative, which uses more than $100 million in federal funds across Delaware's 19 school districts.
"Race to the Top was a budget crunch," Brown said. "It has tied the hands of teachers and restricts them."
Brown, who has worked in early childhood education, believes that the initiative was not a cure for Delaware schools.
Johnson, also an experienced early childhood educator, said that the money used for Race to the Top program in the Appoquinimink School District did pay off, but the strings attached to the program concern him.
The 8th district canvases most of the Appoquinimink district. Data collected through DCAS test scores has shown students in the district have improved over the years.
The problem though with these test scores, Johnson said, is that they are not immediate results and by the time the tests are scored, the students have moved on to a new grade level.
Johnson and Brown both said that the problem with standardized testing, such as DCAS, is that the teachers are teaching to the test.
"They're still teaching what's on the test," Brown said. "The flexibility is still not there."
He pointed out that other districts in the state are not succeeding the same way Appoquinimink is.
"We need to free up our teachers and allow them to teach," Brown said.
The option of sending children to charter schools was also a hot topic, as it is statewide currently.
"My three kids all have different learning styles," Johnson said. "Charters motivate and create competitive atmospheres."
He said that the challenge if there were too many Charter Schools would be that they would be struggling to grow their student base, and would have to compete for resources.
Brown agreed with Johnson for the most part on the Charter School issue, adding that the competition between public and charter schools is a good thing.
"It's not a bad thing," he said. "Charters are spending half of what public schools spend per student."
Jobs and the Economy
Tying into education was the discussion of jobs and the economy.
The 2012 election, on all levels, has been focused on creating jobs and spurring the economy. The 8th district house race in Delaware is no different.
The M.O.T. area has had several large employers settle in the area, including Amazon, Johnson Controls and Christiana.
Small businesses have also been setting up shop in Middletown, and while some weather the storm, others don't make it more than a year.
Johnson said though, that in 2012, the Small Business Association had a record-breaking year.
"Loans were up 73 percent, lending to small business," he said.
Brown doesn't see the economy improving though.
"In [Quinn] Johnson's four year, unemployment has doubled," he said.
Brown proposed a tier incentive system that would encourage hiring by all sizes of business. He said that this would help unemployment go down.
"Government doesn't create jobs," Johnson said. "It creates the job atmosphere."
Johnson said that he has already helped complete the first level by helping to get large businesses to the Middletown area.
"Smaller companies can now come in to support big business growth," he said.
His opponent feels that it is the government's job to promote Delaware and Middletown as good real estate for businesses.
Brown also said that the town and the state need to prepare better for the booming growth.
With Amazon comes traffic, he said.
Property crimes, including burglaries and home invasions are on the rise state wide – and Middletown is not exempt from this.
Some political candidates have said that this is because of the lack of foot patrol and communication between police jurisdictions.
"We need to bring the departments together," Brown said. "The problem is that the departments don't talk because there is competition for funding."
In the M.O.T. area, there are several departments patrolling the area, but they are assigned to certain jurisdictions.
Middletown Police take care of crime in the town limits, New Castle County Police patrol the unincorporated areas, and Delaware State Police take state roads.
A lack of resources has also been attributed to this.
"We need to support our officers and make sure they have what they need," Johnson said. "We need to make sure they all communicate."