The NCGA’s Next Big Idea: Break Up the Wake County School System | News

The NCGA’s Next Big Idea: Break Up the Wake County School System

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This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

If you were wondering what the next the legislature would do to mess with urban areas, wonder no more: next week, lawmakers will begin studying how to break up large school systems, like in Wake and Mecklenburg, which, as far as I know, no urban government has asked for.
  • From the N&O: “A newly formed joint legislative study committee is charged with reporting back by May 1 on whether to recommend passing legislation to let previously merged school districts be divided. The committee, whose first meeting is Feb. 21, would also look at the best ways to break up school districts, including whether to require a referendum by voters.”
  • “The bill’s primary sponsors are Reps. Bill Brawley and John Bradford of Mecklenburg County and Rep. Chris Malone of Wake County. … Brawley, Bradford and Malone also represent counties where there’s been support from some suburban residents to break up their school districts. Many transplants to North Carolina are used to individual towns running their own small school systems. In contrast, most school systems in North Carolina are county-based. Over the years, many school systems in the state merged to try to save money and to integrate schools. The state went from 167 school districts in the 1960s to 115 now. Wake County is the nation’s 15th largest school system and the state’s biggest school system with 160,429 students.”
  • In a tweetstorm, Wake County Commissioner John Burns laid out why he thinks this is a terrible idea:
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WHAT IT MEANS: At first blush, I tend to think Burns’s critique is right. Multiple new bureaucracies all scrambling for funds would be a mess. Schools in Cary and Fuquay-Varina could end up vying for resources against southeast Raleigh and Rolesville, each with budget requests the county commission would have to consider one by one, as local school boards in North Carolina have no taxing power. More than that, the possibility of a de facto resegregation would be all too real—white suburban parents forming their own district to keep their kids away from (wink, nod) “urban” schools. These parents would then have the money and influence to insist that the county send more cash their way, not to struggling schools that need it.

Related: Wake is considering ditching its annual budget fight with the school board and going to a multiyear funding plan instead, which strikes me as a much better idea. [N&O]

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