Candidates differ sharply on schools

If you missed the gubernatorial candidates debate on education issues that aired Friday night on UNC TV stations statewide, you missed a substantive look at the differences and similarities between Republican nominee Pat McCrory, the Charlotte mayor, and Democratic nominee Bev Perdue, the state's lieutenant governor. The good news is you'll have other chances to watch them answer a score of specific questions about public schools and other education issues. The schedule will be available on the Web site of the N.C. Cable and Telecommunications Association, a forum cosponsor along with the Everybody's Business Education Coalition, at www.nccta.com.

Mr. McCrory and Lt. Gov. Perdue differ on a number of points. For instance, he supports raising the cap on the number of charter schools. He says he supports targeted vouchers to help parents pay for private school in certain circumstances, such as a child with Down Syndrome.

She opposes raising the cap on charters and believes vouchers for private schools would be a danger to existing public schools. He supports changing the Constitution to allow the governor to appoint the superintendent of public instruction; she was less clear, but in the past has indicated she doesn't think the legislature will approve such a change.

Lt. Gov. Perdue favors free tuition for community colleges but says it's a long-term goal. Mayor McCrory opposes that plan because, he said, the state is “broke” and all students should pay something for higher education. He opposes creation of more school programs without evaluating how they work, but might support a schools bond issue and more schools funding. She doesn't support a bond issue at the outset. She believes such programs as Smart Start help children become prepared for elementary school and that the Learn and Earn high school program keeps students involved and reduces the dropout rate. He favors more vocational education courses to keep students in class. She favors a broader curriculum that gives every child a chance at college.

Voters looking for further clues to how these two accomplished leaders would approach education ought to mark their calendars and tune in to the debate. It won't tell them everything they need to know about how to vote. It will sharpen the distinctions between Bev Perdue and Pat McCrory's plans for schools and help voters decide between two experienced leaders.

Hackers are going to be hacked off about this

The New York Times reports that Time Warner is experimenting with limits on Internet use for customers who upload a lot of material, charging fees of $1 per gigabyte for customers who use between 5 and 40 gigabytes. This is not a new idea, of course. In fact, it's an old one, used by telephone companies for decades according to how much time a customer used.

What brought this about is the heavy use of Internet services thanks to such sites as YouTube.com and iTunes. It's also due to Internet pirates who use the Web to gobble up the content of entire CDs and DVDs, the Times reports.

It's the American way to totally overdo something and ruin it for everyone. Where else could anyone so thoroughly enjoy a novelty to death – especially if it involved getting something for next to nothing?

But before those cable companies begin charging ordinary customers a lot more money for surfing the 'net, they might want to beef up their own security. You think the hackers are a nuisance now, wait until they have to start paying to hack.

Opera and nudity: Next big thing in Big Apple?

Speaking of the tendency to excess, we also read in Gotham's finest prints that nudity is coming to opera. Anthony Tommasini reports that opera has “increasingly showcased risk-taking and good-looking singers in bold, sexy and explicit productions.” We think that's what's known in some places as buck nekkid, but we haven't seen the proof ourselves.

Still, we're pretty sure the baring of the soul and the soles won't be the usual sort of dramatic revelation, or else waiting for the fat lady – or the fat man – to sing will never be the same.