In just a few short weeks Wake County's voters will either approve or reject an $810 million school bond referendum. This referendum, not unlike every other education issue we have dealt with in the past five years, has become a political football. Once again, we have the Democrats on one side and most Republicans on the other side. There seems to be a genuine disconnect within our county about almost everything associated with public school education, including its future.
The upcoming referendum asks the voters - and more accurately, the taxpayers - to decide if they are willing to pay more in property taxes in order to build new schools and upgrade a number of older ones. The taxpayers are also being asked to decide if they feel it is important for students to attend new schools with state-of-the-art classrooms or trailers located in the rear of the existing structures. Most importantly, we are being asked if we believe that Wake County will continue to grow or if its population will bottom out, thereby allowing us to spend far less on school construction and maintenance.
One thing is certain, if we continue to argue among ourselves, and if we continue to get unfavorable publicity in our nation's more prestigious media outlets, like the New York Times, we won't have to worry about new school buildings. As a matter of fact, we may ultimately have a surplus of school building because no one in their right mind will want to raise their children in this geographic location.
Yes - taxes will go up and the construction bond is steep. However, the need for additional and improved classroom spaces cannot be denied. It also cannot be denied that people have - until now - shown interest in moving to this part of North Carolina. This may soon change and we cannot afford to let that happen. We need to return to Governor Jim Hunt's progressive education model, and we need to make it clear to the citizens of North Carolina, as well as our country, that Wake County values public school education above all else. The bottom line is that education will determine our state's future - the monetary investment is certainly worth the price.