The North Carolina State Legislature will begin the new year's legislative session next week and it appears that they are intent on making significant changes in a number of areas, not the least of which is education. I would remind the legislators of the axiom that with power comes responsibility. Change, if implemented with good intentions and a spirit of bipartisanship, will have a far greater probability of success than one that is founded on revenge.
Many in Wake County will agree that their board of education could have behaved much more professionally in recent years, and that many of their decisions have served to destabilize a school system that had once been regarded as exemplary by prestigious media groups like the New York Times. This does not mean, however, that they have not sought the best interests of their constituents. In fact, we need to remember that the decisions of the board reflect the will of the voters who put them in office. It is important, therefore, that the county commissioners and state legislators clearly understand the motives behind these decisions before pulling the carpet from under the school board's feet.
Among the many issues that the state legislature will soon consider is whether or not the county commissioners should take responsibility for the ownership of the school buildings, thereby making decisions on new school construction and the maintenance needs of existing schools. In other words, all decisions concerning school buildings would go before the county commissioners. In essence, this means that the school board's responsibilities will be significantly curtailed. Is this a first step in eliminating the need for a schools board?
The state legislature - without any partisanship - needs to understand the scope and purpose of school boards. These boards are responsible for understanding the county's educational needs, identify future requirements, and make sure a plan is in place that provides all students with the very best educational opportunities. A significant part of the plan has to do with how many and what kinds of schools will be needed in the future. This is not the job of county commissioners. Their job is to understand the need, ask appropriate questions, and locate the needed funds. Education issues should not be piecemealed within the county - the stakes are much too high.