To the editor:
The school bond issue is not a partisan issue, nor is it about the $12 per month tax increase.
The issue is good, honest governance and fiscal accountability. It is about the kids, and the schools’ basic mission of giving them a sound education.
In 2003, about 89 percent of students passed end-of-grade tests. Wake schools set a goal of having a 95 percent pass by 2008. Where are we now?
In 2012, the elementary school pass rate was 86.4 percent in math and 77 percent in reading.
Middle school results were about the same.
Only high schools showed a very slight improvement, going from about 83 to 87 percent.
School administrators offer many reasons why the 95 percent goal has not been met. What do you do when objectives are not met? Change the subject. Talk about anything else — like construction programs.
There is some dispute whether Ben Franklin or Ben Disraeli said, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.”
Whoever said it, selective data put forth by bond advocates proves the point.
WCPSS’s Facilities Utilization report states, “the Wake school system is at 103.2 percent of long-range capacity, and 16.9 percent of students and teachers operate out of modular classrooms.”
First, the 16.9 percent in modular classrooms refers to those assigned to the existing, bought-and-paid-for 1,136 modular classrooms.
But, the 103.2 percent capacity eliminates 624 of those very same existing modular classrooms and the 15,251 student seats they have, as if they just did not exist.
According to WCPSS, they are not part of the so-called “optimum” plan.
Eliminating 55 percent of the existing modular units from the calculation should reduce the number of students in them by roughly the same amount. You simply cannot have it both ways.
Advocates of the bond also claim opponents would rather shift students around the county to where there is capacity. They also imply we have extra capacity, just in the wrong places.
Evidently schools built with the last bond program (2006) were put in the wrong places causing the need to bus more students for greater distances.
And these are the same people we are going to let plan the new building program?
In 2005, WCPSS staff forecast enrollment growth from 2007 to 2012 would be 21,047. The following year, when they were anxious to get the 2006 bond passed, they raised the forecast to 39,517.
What really happened? Enrollment growth between 2007 and 2012 was just 15,728.
In March, school staff presented their opening gambit, a “must-have” plan to the County Commission. It called for spending $2.2 billion and 32 new schools built by 2018.
It included a renovation of Fuquay-Varina High School at a cost of $82 million. The $82 million was later revised down to $63 million due to an “error” in the costing program.
Since the March plan was not well received, staff presented some alternatives to the commission at the April meeting.
The May offering to the commission was a new “must-have” list of 16 new schools and various upgrades for $939.9 million. Surprisingly, the Fuquay Varina High School renovation was not included in this plan.
The 2013 CIP (Capital Investment Program) calls for spending $993 million. The proposed bond is for $810 million.
Wake County Schools must have $183 million available without the bond.
This is enough to do all the school renovations planned ($169 million) and put a dent in the technology upgrades ($65 million).
The Wake County School Board should do a better job of managing staff to achieve their academic goals and challenging their plans, rather than accepting whatever the central office staff tells them.
Advocates of the 2013 School Bond really should do their homework.