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CD11: Harmer responds to public schools issue

Congressional District 11 GOP nominee David Harmer will not seek to close public schools if elected, he told the Contra Costa Times editorial board on Tuesday afternoon. (Watch videos of the editorial board meetings with both Harmer and incumbent Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney below.)

Harmer, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney, wrote in a 2000 opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle that “So long as the state Constitution mandates free public schools, a voucher system (or refundable tuition tax credit) is the best we can do. To attain quantum leaps in educational quality and opportunity, however, we need to separate school and state entirely. Government should exit the business of running and funding schools.”

Harmer also co-wrote a similar piece for the Cato Institute.

The piece was intended to be provocative and spur debate over the school voucher issue, Harmer said. He was living in Utah at the time and was a huge proponent of the establishment of a controversial school voucher system, which would have provided parents with money to send their children to private, parochial schools.

When asked directly if he believes that government should stop funding and running schools, Harmer said no.

“I don’t believe public schools should be abolished,” Harmer said. “What I believe is that every child deserves access to a quality education.

As the attorney accurately noted, he sends his four children to public schools in San Ramon and his wife, Elayne, is a substitute teacher for the district.

Harmer has come under considerable fire for his views, however, with coverage in national publications such as Mother Jones and Vanity Fair. The campaign of Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney cites it as “another example of Harmer’s extremist views.”

Watch portions of both the Harmer and McNerney editorial board interviews below. The discussions also featured a wide-ranging discussion of other national issues such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, fiscal policy and health care reform.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen