08/02/07 — A chance to lead: Wisdom on schools should accompany tax authority

View Archive

A chance to lead: Wisdom on schools should accompany tax authority

OK, it’s done.

The N.C. House and Senate have given counties the taxing opportunities they want and the Medicaid relief for which they clamored.

Now, what?

What concerns every resident of every county is what politicians are going to do when faced with the chance to raise taxes to pay for projects yet unnamed.

Will they go crazy and create mammoth bills that a regular family with a regular income cannot afford, or will they act responsibly and keep costs low while still providing the infrastructure and other projects that their communities need?

Well, we will hope for the latter and guard against the former.

In Wayne County, the legislature’s decision could have an interesting effect.

This county is struggling with increasing Medicaid costs and worried about where it will get the money to make necessary repairs to school buildings. So, the ability to create a tax to help pay for the improvements while getting some more money from Medicaid to continue with other necessary projects just might be the perfect solution.

And most of us get that there is a need. We just want to make sure that someone is holding the reins and that what started out as a $90 million project does not balloon to $110 million.

So, now that the ground rules have been set at the state level, there need to be a few here, too.

Here are a few tips for the powers that be as they start talking seriously about what’s next for Wayne County Schools.

— No more fighting. We mean it. No more bad-mouthing, side comments or anything else that might be considered bad behavior. Work together.

— No grandstanding. We get it. None of you are anti-children or are out to spend $225 million when $6 million will do. Just the facts, please.

— We want better schools, too, better programs, better scores and better graduation rates. We know new buildings will not guarantee any of the above, but we also know that where children go to school does make a difference. If you are serious about putting schools and education at the top of the county’s priority list, stop pretending one doesn’t affect the other. Attack the whole problem now. Let’s make this community a place people come to see how we did it. Then, when you have accomplished that, grandstand all you want.

— Acknowledge that what affects education more than anything else is parental involvement, community reinforcement and offering children hope, dreams and opportunity. Look at other programs to include with new buildings and better classrooms. Admit to the real problems Goldsboro and Wayne County face when it comes to improving education — even if they are hard to say to your constituents. Give the families the support they need to break the drop-out cycle.

And last, but not least, be leaders. We need vision, not hype. We need ideas, not finger-pointing. We elected you to listen to us, represent us and to help us maximize the potential for this community. Remember that as you sit down to talk again.

We will be watching.

Published in Editorials on August 2, 2007 11:11 AM