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Bill shuffling Wake school board passes committee

Posted April 17, 2013

— Wake County's school board would be reshuffled so that members would be elected in a two-tiered district system under a bill that cleared the Senate Redistricting Committee Wednesday. 

The bill, which passed on a voice vote, creates seven individual districts and two regional super-districts. The two regional districts would be split between a donut-shaped zone that takes in the county's rural areas and an urban district taking in most of Raleigh and Cary in the middle. 

School board elections would also move from odd-numbered years to the May primaries of even-numbered years.

"Voter turnout has been abysmal in these school board races," said Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake.

While the number of voters participating in a given county commissioner election in an even numbered year have recently totaled about 1 million, fewer than 100,000 voters participated in the most recent school board elections.

Under the version of the bill adopted Wednesday, the changes would not go into effect until 2016, allowing the current system to remain in place until then. 

The bill raised partisan hackles during the committee meeting. 

"Here we go again, the state of North Carolina, this General Assembly, this GOP, asserting its will on local governments," said Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg. "It is not fair, it is not warranted, it is certainly political and it doesn't serve the citizens of North Carolina."

Graham's comments drew a parallel between the school board measure and other bills that have imposed changes on local governments. For example, Graham pushed back against a bill that takes the Charlotte Douglas International Airport away from the city of Charlotte and turns it over to a regional authority.

"It weakens North Carolina and makes citizens across this state look upon this process as a mockery," Graham said.

That prompted an answer from Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, who backed Hunt's bill. 

"It's amazing to me the gentleman from Mecklenburg wants to repress the vote and keep it in odd years so nobody comes out nowhere near a majority so the minority party can keep control," Apodaca said. "That's kind of a mockery also."

Local politicians testified during the meeting. 

Joe Bryan, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, said his group passed a resolution in favor of redrawing the school board districts on a 4-3 party-line vote.

School board Chairman Keith Sutton said his members would rather keep the current system.

"We are not in favor of this change," Sutton said. 

A handful of Wake County residents spoke out against the measure as well.

"There will be great confusion if you change the districts now," said Amy Womble, who identified herself as a graduate of the Wake County school system and a parent of children in the system.

Schools that are near each other would be split between different districts, Womble said. 

"These two (regional) districts pit the suburban areas against the urban areas of town," she said.

36 Comments

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  • stymieindurham Apr 18, 12:46 p.m.

    I wonder if their buddy, the right reverend, told them to oppose this?

  • stymieindurham Apr 18, 12:44 p.m.

    Haaaaaaaaa! That was a good one! I was wondering why the political correctness and lack of courage to call someone "chairman". Now I see. He does have a strong chair.

  • NoMoreOfThat Apr 18, 12:41 p.m.

    "Sutton is not the board chair."

    Actually he is. Pay more attention or take up another cause.

  • scooter Apr 18, 11:51 a.m.

    luannelittle, I pull a quote from another member, I was merely pointing out the fascism is far right, not far left as was suggested in the quote.

  • krimson Apr 18, 11:25 a.m.

    "In any case, I suspect that Sutton's chair is incredibly strong."

    LOL! Quote of the day!

  • hpr641 Apr 18, 11:09 a.m.

    "Sutton and his predecessor are two of the weakest board chairs we have ever had."

    Actually, as you can see from the photo's caption, Sutton is not the board chair. In any case, I suspect that Sutton's chair is incredibly strong.

  • krimson Apr 18, 11:01 a.m.

    Western: "The changes to make the school board more representative of the entire county is long overdue, but this legislation did not go far enough - at least four of the school board positions should be elected at-large countywide."

    I might agree with you on your first statement, but we know that having at-large elections favors western wake county... If we want fair and equal representation across the entire county, sub-divide the county into more districts. Having 4 elected at-large members from Cary does nothing for Knightdale...

  • krimson Apr 18, 10:57 a.m.

    Bart: "Before my time here. What happened?"

    The City and County systems merged... It had to do with white-flight, segregation in schools, and the SCOTUS decision in Charlotte... There were a lot of other factors too...

  • luannlittle Apr 18, 10:26 a.m.

    Scooter, Do you know what a facist is? Hitler, Mussolini and Franco were facist. I don't think that is what you want. I would say that doing away with teacher's assistants, increasing class size, gerrymandering school district, and making it more difficult to keep teachers is not pro education. Perhaps I am wrong, but I don't think educational research would support these practices.

  • stymieindurham Apr 18, 10:10 a.m.

    "Here we go again, the state of North Carolina, this General Assembly, this GOP, asserting its will on local governments," said Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg. "It is not fair, it is not warranted, it is certainly political and it doesn't serve the citizens of North Carolina."
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    Whaaaa-whaaaaaa!! Cry baby. Bill makes sense to me. Would you rather have 1 million voters voting or 100K?

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