|Rep. Jon Hardister (courtesy photo)|
We interviewed Hardister, a first-term Guilford County representative, for our recent article about Moral Monday demonstrations at the legislature, but didn't have space to run his responses.
While he said he probably doesn't agree with the Moral Mondays protesters, Hardister said he's "glad they're doing it" because "it's good to see people engaged."
"You take them seriously," Hardister said. "When people take the time out of their day to come to the General Assembly to protest you definitely want to take it seriously and listen to what they have to say. Anytime I see protesters I always think about. It challenges you to think about what you’re doing."
Protests force legislators to pause and explain their actions, which is important, he said. Hardister said he ultimately makes his decisions by analyzing issues, talking to people on both sides of the debate and doing research: Like with voter ID — one of the key issues propeling the Moral Monday actions. Hardister said he considered the issue carefully but added that polls showed that most North Carolinians support voter ID, as do many of his constituents.
Hardister, who's only 30 and is the vice president of First Carolina Mortgage, is a strong advocate of charter schools, which comes as no surprise to anyone who followed his election campaign last year; he touted "a platform of supporting school choice and strengthening charter schools." Hardister served on the board of Greensboro Academy, a charter school, before he was elected.
Since taking office he's been the lead sponsor on seven bills, two of which are about charter schools, though his involvement in charter-related legislation doesn't end there. Hardister also supported the creation of a new board to govern charter schools that would still be under the education department, interest-free loans as start-up funds for charters and an act to make public charter schools eligible for permanent registration license plates.
"My philosophy on charter schools is that they are an important part of our public school system," Hardister said, adding that they are meant to supplement and not replace traditional public schools. "The idea is for the funding to follow the student. It’s just a way to provide more opportunity for children and more choice for parents."
Hardister said two bills he sponsored focusing on charters, HB 250 and HB 273, would give them some more flexibility in conducting enrollment, require funds allocated for charter schools to be transferred in a more timely fashion and more clearly articulate charters' ability to borrow money for operational expenses like electricity, running water and maintenance.
Hardister's bills are partially informed by his contacts — he has stayed in touch with charters in his district and worked closely with two charter school lobbying organizations, he said. He tries to stay in touch with what a broader base of constiuents want too, he said.
"You have to do your research and follow your instincts," Hardister said. "Education is a sensitive topic and we all agree it's important. We all want what's best but unfortunately we don't always agree on how to get there."
The desire to make things better transcends political parties, he said, which is why it's important to treat everyone — protestors and politicians alike— with respect and assume they are sincerely tying to do what they believe is best. The only times politics is disheartening, Hardister added, is when people dismiss someone by saying they don't truly care.