School Board, Commission Fight Brewing

BentonSwornIn

Lauren Ramsdell

Newest board member Tom Benton was sworn in Tuesday. His wife is holding the Bible.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated from its original version to include a correction. Although it's been widely reported that the state supports public money going towards charter schools, that is not in part of the legislative agenda and is just part of the Wake County Commissioners' agenda.

Wake County School Board members this week remain critical of moves by the Wake County Commission to take control over school property, but some say they hope to work things out before the fight reaches the state legislature.

School board members Tuesday passed a resolution in support of the North Carolina School Boards Association’s 2013-2014 Legislative Agenda, which includes a resolution opposing the County Commission's goal to take ownership of school property.

District 2 representative John Tedesco and District 7 representative Deborah Prickett voted against the resolution because, they both said, the materials did not and could not have represented the board as a whole.

Wake County Commissioners added school property ownership to their legislative agenda, approved Jan. 22. Commissioners recommend the state legislature transfer ownership of school property sites to the county. They also want the state to restructure the way the Board of Education is elected, shifting from all regional seats to a majority of members elected at-large.

Commissioners also recommend using county funds to help with charter school construction costs.

Both groups have approved the hiring of lobbyists to promote their goals at the General Assembly.

School board representatives offered mixed reactions at Tuesday’s meeting, but most were critical of the steps taken by Commissioners. Tedesco and Prickett expressed a desire to meet with the Commission and discuss the resolutions before duking it out in the legislature.

“It only adds to the rub between us and the Commission and it doesn’t help us from starting to negotiate with them,”Tedesco said during the work session. “I still think there may be opportunities to work through this with them.”

But Chairman Keith Sutton said that they have offered the chance to talk about the issues that arise before, but “the Commission seems determined to go ahead.”

Meanwhile, the two groups are working together to create a school bond referendum for the fall 2013 ballot. The first joint meeting took place on Jan. 18 — days before the Commission’s legislative agenda was announced. The next joint meeting is Thursday.

County Commissioners "whipped this legislative agenda out of their pockets," after they had the chance to talk over some of the issues at the joint meeting, said District 8 Democrat Susan Evans.

“If we’re going to work together on a bond issue, we have to work together on a bunch of other stuff too,” she said.


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