Perdue to get out front on education

RALEIGH Her office said Tuesday that she'll host a series of rallies across the state to drum up public support for education and her education priorities.

Perdue's first rally is set for Wednesday at 11 a.m. on the steps of the Old Capitol in downtown Raleigh. More rallies will follow in Greensboro, Charlotte, Asheville and Greenville.

Perdue's office said she'd be joined by representatives from the North Carolina Association of Educators, local PTAs, teachers and others.

The Governor - a former teacher herself - said during her campaign that she planned to make improving education a central theme of her administration. While acknowledging that there's no way to leave education funding unscathed in the current economic climate, she's maintained that the issue remains a top priority with her. Perdue echoed that sentiment again Tuesday in a conversation with reporters.

"Folks in schools across our state need to understand that I'm going to protect the classroom. I intend to do that and I believe the General Assembly will join me in that battle," she said.

Perdue has suggested ways to protect funding for schools and health care by raising so-called sin taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. The idea was a nonstarter in the Legislature.

"I think you've seen what House and Senate thought about my plan to raise the tobacco tax by a dollar and obviously that's not going to go anywhere this session," said Perdue.

Still, the Governor seems undaunted and says she plans to work with lawmakers to find the right mix of cuts and revenue increases.

"I'll continue to push for revenue in this budget," she said. "I'm really hopeful. I'm really hopeful. I intend to work as hard as I've ever worked to have the House and Senate come to some kind of agreement on revenue and on pieces of the budget and get the thing [done] by June 30."

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