08/07/07 — The list is in: School board is right, it’s time for action

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The list is in: School board is right, it’s time for action

It’s hard not to scowl when one thinks about just how long it has taken to get to this point in the discussion about county funding and schools in Wayne County.

It almost seems like the preamble to one of those worn-out old jokes ... “how many months does it take for a county to develop a facilities plan?”

In our case, the punchline includes the word “years.”

The fact that the priority list is finally in for school facilities projects in Wayne County is good news for everyone who is sick of talking — and reading — about school needs and budget requirements.

So now, armed with a numbered list for the $105 million wish list, the county commissioners can set about deciding how much we can afford now and how much we will have to ask residents to support in a bond levy.

At their meeting Monday night, some board members said they felt a bit helpless at this point — that they turned over their request, but that it is the county commission who will decide what the schools will get.

And the truth is, they are right. The state does empower the counties with the power to control what is spent where — and that includes the schools. So, while school boards and school officials set policies for education in their communities, county commissioners decide how much extra will be spent on those programs once state and federal mandates have been satisfied.

There could be an argument made that there ought to be a better way, but for right now, this is the hand Wayne County and its counterparts across North Carolina have been dealt.

So, what do we do now?

Well, wait, again.

But this time, this community needs to take the advice of some of those school board members who spoke out Monday night.

If you have an opinion on what you want to see in your schools and how much you are willing to pay to meet those standards, make sure someone knows.

And that means keeping in touch with your county commissioner.

The commissioners now have the ball in the school facilities debate — and the responsibility that goes along with it.

There has been enough arguing, enough stalling, enough finger-pointing. Both boards say they are ready to put this issue to bed once and for all, and that is exactly what the commissioners are now charged with doing.

Soon, there should be plans proposed, school bonds discussed and other issues that sound more like action than planning.

All of us can sigh and say, “It’s about time.”

And it will be up to us to make sure the process stays on track.

Published in Editorials on August 7, 2007 12:37 PM