Folwell maintains focus on education, public safety and efficiency

by Keith Barber

Dale Folwell is a man who gets things done. Folwell, the Republican incumbent representing NC House District 74, has introduced and passed 16 pieces of legislation during his six-year career in the General Assembly.

The Every Child Ready to Learn bill is a good example of Folwell’s education agenda and overall governing philosophy. The bill moves the kindergarten entrance age from Oct. 16 to Aug. 31 to help reduce as much as a two-year age difference between classmates. It might sound like a small detail, but the legislation helps teachers focus their lesson plan on a single age group, which enhances early education.

Folwell, 51, also got a bill passed that simplifies building standards for pre-kindergarten classrooms — a measure designed to save taxpayer dollars. Folwell introduced a bill that requires vertical driver’s licenses for young people under the age of 21 to help prevent alcohol and tobacco sales to underage customers by creating a card that is clearly distinguishable from traditional horizontal cards issued to people of legal drinking age, and a bill that allows police officers to remove tags, driver licenses and registration of uninsured motorists.

Folwell’s legislative achievements in education, public safety, government efficiency and family values are a reflection of why he got involved in public service in the first place, he said.

“The focus of these [areas] is how do we lower the cost of living and doing business in this state, how do we get more out of what taxpayers have already purchased and, more importantly, how do we change the behavior of what we’re trying to fix?” he said.

Common sense legislation that protects education and saves taxpayer money has been the hallmark of Folwell’s legislative career. A social coservative, Folwell said he crafts bills that “reward the people that are doing the right things, and punish the ones who are not.”

For example, Folwell plans to introduce a bill that adds transparency to disciplinary proceedings for public school teachers. The bill would prevent teachers from resigning during an ongoing disciplinary process, so that if the same teacher applies for another job in education, they would have to say “yes” to the question, “Have you ever been dismissed by a school system?” Folwell is currently crafting a bill that will make it easier on students to remain in the same school district from kindergarten through the 12 th grade.

Folwell’s focus on early education comes from a realization about the long-term effects of a statewide school system that fails to educate all of its students. He pointed to the state’s attrition rate, or the number of students who begin the 9 th grade versus the number that actually graduate high school. The failure of the schools to give all children a quality education is costing the state billions, he said. “The people that did not walk across the stage [at high school graduations] last week across the state of North Carolina are going to cost themselves and the taxpayers of North Carolina $1.5 billion over their lifetime — just the class of 2010,” Folwell said. “We fail in Raleigh to recognize and acknowledge the number-one natural resource in this state is brains.”

The steps that must be taken to reverse the disturbing trends in education must be implemented in early education programs, Folwell said.

A fiscal conservative, Folwell approaches economic issues from the perspective of an accountant. Folwell has a master’s degree in accounting from UNCG.

“We have a government we cannot afford,” said Folwell. “We’ve made our tax base narrower and deeper. The result of that is we’re driving capital and jobs out of North Carolina.”

Folwell said the North Carolina’s high unemployment rate is symptomatic of an unfriendly business climate, but he is staunchly opposed to economic incentive packages.

“As a conservative, I don’t feel like the government should be picking winners and losers,” he said. “It’s great to advocate for those industries that are going to be the future of this state, but it’s also important to recognize and acknowledge what we can do to keep small and medium-sized businesses in this state prosperous. We don’t want them evaporating for any reason.”

With respect to the current budget crunch in Raleigh, Folwell believes legislators should look at their legislative priorities before making arbitrary budget cuts.

“We are constitutionally sworn to present a balanced budget and we failed,” Folwell said. “Our approach for 10 years has been to spray and pray—spray money on these problems and pray it works. We can’t do that anymore.”

Despite the significant challenges ahead, this is a good time for Dale Folwell.

“I’m blessed in many ways but one benefit of being my age is that it’s fun and productive to embrace who I am, not to worry about who I’m not, or who I’m going to be,” he said. “I’m in a really sweet spot personally because I like embracing who I am.”