Once again, the majority of the Wake County School Board is pitching a fit. This time, however, the source of their consternation can’t be simply fired and swept away like their irritation with former Superintendent Tony Tata.
This time, the problems are a mite more tenacious as they are coming from the Wake County Commissioners — the holders of their purse strings, for the most part.
Last month, commissioners outlined their legislative agenda, including their aim to convince state lawmakers to take from the school board the ownership and governance of school property and give that responsibility to the county.
With a clear Republican majority in the legislature and one that has already moved swiftly on partisan bills, the Wake County Commissioners, who have long threatened to make just such a move, will probably get their way, even over the weeping and gnashing of teeth by the school board.
Until that time, however, the Democrat-led school board has signaled its intent to fight tooth and nail, spending the max amount of funds it can —without having to ask the county for permission — a cool $100,000 to hire a lobbyist.
The commissioners must not think it will be much of a battle as they’ve only set aside $25,000 for the fight.
Most parents reading these figures probably do not think like either school board members or commissioners who regularly deal in hundreds of thousands of dollars. For these two boards, $125,000 is just a chunk of change.
For everyone else, $125,000 represents 1,800 Kindle E-readers that could be distributed to area schools to enhance reading programs. It could also be 50,000 reams of copy paper — something schools have run short of, even to the point of teachers asking students to print off practice end-of-course exams at home for extra credit because the teachers don’t have the resources to do it (true story).
Moving beyond the cost of the war these two groups are waging, giving control of the school system’s land to the county could actually be a good thing. The county is used to purchasing land and constructing buildings.
There really is no need to duplicate expertise between the two groups.
School boards understand schools, education, teachers and students. They can’t be expected to be experts in acquiring and maintaining land.
Turning that headache over to the commissioners would free up the school board to do what it should be doing — meeting the educational needs of students, reviewing new curriculum and advances in educational theory and supporting teachers and school staff with the best in training and continuing education opportunities.
County staff, who have a much better understanding of what is going on in the county, can handle the issue of where schools will go or what modifications of existing structures need to happen.
Since the school board already has to seek county approval for all major purchases, this would actually speed up the process of getting land acquired and schools built.
Lastly, a very unhappy public who has long expressed its belief that the school board does what it wishes regardless of the effects it has on families, can feel like an overly aggressive school board is being significantly, and finally, reigned in. And if the public is happy, a badly needed school bond is much more likely to be approved.
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