03/14/07 — Direction needed: Continuing school issues require more than local input

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Direction needed: Continuing school issues require more than local input

There seems to be more than one county talking about who should pay for what and who should have the say so over the programs in their counties’ schools.

Duplin County’s commissioners and board of education are trying to work out their differences with regard to the future of their schools. Over in Wake County, the battle over year-round schools and funding is headed to the courts.

And here in Wayne County, there is not quite an impasse, but there has been no more movement than last month regarding the next step for the facilities plan or a bond issue to pay for it. All this as yet another budget discussion is about to begin.

When one school district has an issue, that’s a problem. When three school districts in the same general area — and probably even more than that around the state — are arguing over who controls the schools, that is a matter for someone else to examine more closely.

And maybe it is time for state leaders to take a look.

That job will not be an easy one.

The problem is, both groups are right.

The school boards are correct. They have been charged with the operation of the schools and have the personnel, expertise and experience to get the job done. While the commissioners should be able to have a say, they should have no more power than any citizen of the county when it comes to making statements about what should or should not be done in the schools. That is why there is a school board and why there are school officials in charge of determining the best course of action for the schools. If the commissioners were charged with overseeing the programs in the schools, there would be no need for a school board.

Making sure schools run efficiently is someone else’s job.

But that does not mean that the commissioners’ determination to make sure that the taxpayers’ money is spent fairly is discharged at the door of the school district either. They are responsible for taking a limited amount of money and dividing it equitably around a variety of departments with a variety of competing interests. The school district should not be given a blank check anymore than any other department should.

We need the commissioners to make sure our tax dollars are spent wisely.

The continuing arguments over who controls what are hurting our schools and our state’s future. Bickering over the past does nothing to make the schools better or to get ever-increasingly-expensive facilities projects under way.

Someone needs to set a course quickly — before another year passes by.

Published in Editorials on March 14, 2007 11:27 AM