Commissioners weigh in on school board debate (again)

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During the Board of Commissioners first meeting with a newly elected Republican majority, it rescinded a previous resolution condemning the neighborhood schools plan as an act of re-segregation and requested that the school board begin budgeting and reporting its funding by “purpose and function.”

Stan Norwalk (D) introduced a resolution in April that called the creation of high poverty schools, as achieved by the school board’s neighborhood schools plan, detrimental to economic development and an act of re-segregation.

The measure, which passed under the previous Democratic majority, was rescinded by Republicans in a 4-3 vote.

Chair Paul Coble (R) said, “Rescinding this resolution is stepping back to the time before we got involved in the school board’s business.”

“I attended segregated schools,” cautioned commissioner James West (D) “and we have to consider what traumatic effects that can have on minority children.”

The board’s newest member, Phil Matthews (R), countered, “I also attended segregated schools and I wish that language had never been introduced into a resolution. I don’t think there is a racist ounce of blood in anyone on this board or on the Board of Education.”

Before the chair abruptly forced a vote on the measure, commissioner Betty Lou Ward (D) added, “We’re always talking about economic development, economic development. If you were a company and saw this plan, you might hesitate in coming here.”

“Purpose and function”

Under the Board of Commissioners’ last Republican majority a measure was briefly introduced that would require the school board to budget its money into a number of broad categories based on “purpose and function.”

If the school board did not come within 15 percent of its budget in a certain category, the Board of Commissioners would have leverage over that portion of funding in the future.

But the measure was never fully enacted.

School board chair Ron Margiotta and John Tedesco, author of the neighborhood schools plan, have thrown their support behind the new measure which passed in a 6-1 vote. Stan Norwalk (D) was the only commissioner to vote against the request.

The measure requests that the school board budget its money into 17 broad categories. Norwalk suggested that the categories are too obscure to make real sense to the public.

Tedesco, who serves on the non-partisan school board, said, “If you give me $300 million, I think I owe you an answer on how I’m using it.”

Quoting Warren Buffet, Tedesco added, “’When the tide goes out, you get to see who is swimming naked’ and with these budget shortfalls a lot of people are going to be swimming naked.”

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