Candidate Sorum weighs in on issuesThis is the second part of a three-part series looking at North Dakota’s governor candidates. Republican Paul Sorum of Fargo is featured this week, and Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple will be featured next week. Democrat Ryan Taylor’s answers ran last week.
By: Teri Finneman, The Jamestown Sun
This is the second part of a three-part series looking at North Dakota’s governor candidates. Republican Paul Sorum of Fargo is featured this week, and Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple will be featured next week. Democrat Ryan Taylor’s answers ran last week.
Here are Sorum’s answers to the questions:
There has been vocal criticism of the state Board of Higher Education. Do you think it’s time to change the structure of higher education in the state (and if so, how?) or do you think the current system works but is undergoing some setbacks?
I think it’s time for some major reforms. I think that the higher ed board, the leadership of the higher ed board, has done some pretty significant damage to the reputation of our University System in the state, and I think it’s time that we change our whole system to make it accountable to voters.
I think, for example, there should be a statewide officer holder to which the chancellor reports. I think the higher ed board needs oversight by the Legislature and the governor’s office. I think these are some basic moves that make sense, and I think you’ll see over the next year a lot of political capital spent on doing just that.
I think the higher ed system needs a new vision. We need to make students a customer of higher education. We need to make quality teaching the goal.
What do you see as the biggest challenge with K-12 education right now and what would be your plan to address it?
I see several big challenges. You know, we have a lot of good teachers out there, but they don’t have the kind of control that I think they need to do a good job. I think they’re hamstrung by a lot of strings that are attached to federal dollars. I think they’re stuck in a format that is a failure, and we need to put teachers in charge.
I think one of the things I’d like to see is more subject matter expertise hired. It’s very difficult for us to hire people with degrees in physics and math, and I think there are some obvious reasons for that.
But I want to see subject matter expertise—actual degrees in subjects like math and science and other areas—teaching in our schools, not just people with education degrees. And I think that’s very essential. It’s very difficult to do right now, but I believe, with some simple reforms, we could change that.
What would you consider to be your top three priorities for the 2013 legislative session at this point in time?
First of all, I think a budget that is geared toward benefiting the citizens of the state, which means we really need to look at eliminating most of our special interest spending, if not all.
I think, secondly, we need to look at the state’s resources and understand how to put those resources to work for the citizens of the state, especially our opportunity to self-finance infrastructure in western North Dakota and fix water problems in eastern North Dakota.
We have the resources to do it. We have the ability to do it. We need leadership and the willpower to get it done. That’s going to be a very top priority for my administration.
I think that it’s really vital that North Dakota’s education system—K-12 and through the University System—is reformed and improved. We need to look at the technologies available to us. We need to look at the latest trends that we can see are proven to work and implement them here in North Dakota.
Western North Dakota’s economy and infrastructure has received the most attention lately. What is your vision for the eastern half of the state?
The eastern half is not really that different from the western half. We have a lot of farm-to-market roads that are falling apart. We have a lot of county bridges that are problematic, and we have education issues here as well as the rest of the state. I think those are all vitally important. I think, especially in eastern North Dakota, if we can make our tax system more competitive with other states, I think eastern North Dakota would benefit dramatically from that.
Why should you be North Dakota’s next governor?
There’s a big difference between me and our current governor, who was not elected. You see, I’m interested in making sure government works to the benefit of the people that live here. We’ve got about a 12-year track record almost now of state government working for its own benefit and, a lot of times, to the detriment of people that live here. Just talk to the folks out west and they’ll agree with that sentiment. It doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s a big difference between what I’m proposing and what we’ve got. Individuals will benefit if the state is run with Republican principles and, right now, it’s not being run based on Republican principles. It’s being run by principles that are very similar to what we see in Washington. It’s about the growth of government, the control of government over people in the state. It’s about the financing and enlargement of the state’s financing. That’s not benefitting people in the state.
I care very, very deeply about people that live in North Dakota. As governor, I’m not going to be working for government. I’m going to be working for the people of North Dakota.