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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


AZ House candidates argue education

Republican Ruth McClung and Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva agree on the important role of education.

During a debate between Congressional District 7 candidates, Grijalva, the four-term incumbent representative, called education the “”great equalizer”” and said it is the “”civil rights issue of this era.””

McClung, his Republican challenger, agreed that education can play the role of an equalizer, but also argued that simply throwing money at the problem wouldn’t bring satisfactory results.

McClung and Grijalva both agreed that existing “”No Child Left Behind”” policies need to be reworked, with Grijalva calling them a “”mess”” and McClung saying the policy was a “”blanket generality.””

“”We shouldn’t shortchange the children of this nation,”” Grijalva said.

For Libertarian candidate George Keane, the issue comes from the very top: the U.S. Department of Education.

Keane stated that since the U.S. Department of Education was founded, per capita student spending in the United States has increased threefold while test scores have remained static. He also said higher per student spending does not translate into better test scores. He cited that Washington, D.C., schools have some of the nation’s lowest test scores despite the highest per-student spending rate in the nation.

Independent candidate Harley Meyer said parents need to embrace a larger role in their children’s education and to embrace the “”tremendous amounts of influence”” they wield.

“”I don’t believe people realize the power of the parent,”” he said.

The debate was sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Pima Community College. Onlookers were seated an hour before the debate began, but the room quickly filled to capacity and security officers were stationed outside the doors to keep the over-capacity crowd from entering by the time the debate began at 5 p.m.

McClung repeatedly attacked Grijalva’s support of higher government spending, namely this year’s Affordable Health Care for America Act and the federal government’s stimulus bill. She said it was time for the government to act more like a family and adhere to a stricter budget since government spending has increased 23 percent since 2008.

Grijalva responded that without decisive government action the country and the state would have fallen into a deeper recession or a depression.  

The candidates were asked whether they believed health care is a fundamental right for Arizona residents. Both Grijalva and Meyer stated it was, while McClung said affordability of, and access to care must be the legislature’s primary concern. Keane rejected the notion, stating that Americans have a right to life and the pursuit of happiness, but not happiness itself. At the end of the debate, Keane implored audience members to cast their votes his way, saying a vote for a Republican or a Democrat is an endorsement of their policies.

“”We need to realize that these two parties are two broken wings of the same dysfunctional bird,”” he said.

Meyer stressed his independent status, which he said was essential to adequately represent a district with around 104,000 registered independents in this district. As of Aug. 24 there were 142,283 Democrats, and 75,437 Republicans registered in District 7, according to the State of Arizona Registration Report compiled by the Arizona secretary of state.

McClung closed by reiterating that the government needs to scale down and give more autonomy to state and local governments.

“”We need the power to come back to the capable hands of the people,”” she said.

Grijalva, whose closing statements were interrupted by the crowd, reiterated his commitment to education. He also criticized McClung for wanting to extend tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.

After the debate, chants of “”Viva Grijalva”” and “”Ruth”” echoed throughout the room for several minutes, and continued in short outbursts as the room cleared. Several protestors began to argue in the room and had to be separated by security personnel.

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