School construction bill remains alive despite committee rejection

Posted July 11, 2013

— The House Government Committee on Thursday removed Wake County from legislation that shifted responsibility for construction and upkeep of public schools from local school boards to boards of county commissioners. 

Then, the committee voted down the entire bill. Despite those defeats, the measure is expected to come back up in another committee. 

"These elected boards should learn how to work together," said Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow. "If they don't, that's a problem of those elected people."

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, would have allowed counties to take over assets from nine school boards, including Wake, Guilford and Lee counties. At the request of Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, Cabarrus was added to the bill.

Then, Rep. Rosa Gill, D-Wake, stood to oppose the measure.

"The board of education needs the ability to control the design and construction of our school buildings," said Gill, a former Wake County school board member. 

Hunt argued that school boards should be able to concentrate on education and that county commissioners had "more business-like skills." 

Also, he said, counties are the government entities that formally issue bonds, so they should have control of the assets. 

But in something of a test vote for the measure overall, the committee voted 17-10 to remove Wake County.

Following that vote, several members of the Wake County Board of Commissioners spoke in favor of the measure, urging that their county be put back in.

Commissioner Paul Coble, a Republican, argued that bond-rating agencies worried that counties didn't own the assets for which they were issuing bonds. That, he said, would eventually lower the county's bond rating, which would mean counties have to pay more to borrow money.

"That takes money way from schools," he said.

Wake County is getting ready to send a $900 million school bond to the voters. 

But Cleveland dismissed those arguments as "specious," and Rep. James Langdon, R-Johnston, also spoke out against the measure. Both men said the bill was upsetting long-standing relationships and checks and balances between those who fund schools and those who run the schools. 

The committee rejected the bill on a voice vote, meaning no formal count was taken. However, it's important to note that the bill merely failed to get a favorable report, which means it is still alive for the remainder of the legislative session, which will likely pause later this month and pick back up in May 2014. 

Hunt, Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, and other backers of the bill huddled immediately after the committee meeting ended. 

Hunt said he did not know when he would push to bring the measure back up. "Maybe in the short session (in May)," he said.

Actually, it will be a lot sooner. 

Rep. Tim Moore, the House Rules Chairman, asked fellow lawmakers for permission to move the measure out of the House Government Committee and into the Rules Committee Thursday night.

The motion prompted a 30-minute discourse on the bill and legislative procedure, with opponents of the bill hoping to thwart Moore.

"This motion will revive this bill," said Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, urging lawmakers to turn back the motion.

In the end, the House voted 77-34 to allow the move. The measure is expected to be heard by the House Rules Committee next week. 


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  • skeeter II Jul 15, 2013

    Why not go the extra step -- switch the responsibility for running the public school to the State Board of Education and eliminate the local school boards????

    The counties could be responsible for the building and maintaining of the buildings.

    This would shift the current differences from the school board vs the county government to a state vs county basis!

    One problem that would need to be resolved first -- responsability of the state board vs the elected superintendent. There have been court cases where one sued the other on this issue. Remember the last Governor appointed a person to run the DPI and the superintendent sued and won that she was responsible not that individual!

    If a student fails to learn, it is not always the teachers fault. Why evaluate the teacher on whether the students learn. Some students do not want to go to school, much less participate and learn. Quit the passing of a student to the next grade if that student did not do enough work to pass the grade.

  • beachboater Jul 12, 2013

    "at the hands of too many disruptive students, or non-english speaking students, or special needs students....." mep

    mep: I agree with much of your comment, but including special needs students in your comments is just downright mean. My experience with my own family is that many of the special needs kids work harder and percentage wise learn more than many "normal" kids.

    Throwing money at schools does NOT fix the problems. The single most effective way to improve schools is through discipline. The teachers get no support from up-stream administrators from principals all the way up to the school board. Parents don't parent and the teachers cannot parent and teach.

    I know this is old, but when I was in school, you went to learn. And if you disrupted a class, the principal gave you a little encouragement through the seat of your pants. Can't do that anymore.

    Way too much money is spent on administration and testing than on teaching. Teacher pay has been frozen for years.

  • jurydoc Jul 11, 2013

    "These elected boards should learn how to work together," said Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow. "If they don't, that's a problem of those elected people."

    Wow, sounds like someone should take his own advice and learn how to "work together" with other GA members FOR THE GOOD OF NC, not just for the good of the GOP.

  • miseem Jul 11, 2013

    Wasn't this what the Education Lottery supposed to do--fund School Construction?

    This keeps popping up. Particularly with a tag like yours, you should be aware that the lottery was never intended to be the sole cource of education money in NC. It brings in about 400 to 500 million a year, statewide. That's only half of what Wake County alone is proposing for their bond issue. I know that this is a multi year expenditure, but do you relly think that less than $500,000,00 would come close to covering school construction needs in NC? In addition, despite claims when it was passed, this has been used to supplant other tax funds that would have been used in education. But as you say, every little bit helps.

  • superman Jul 11, 2013

    everylittlebithelps Where have you been for the last few years. There are over 100 school systems. Do you think the lottery can build all the schools for all the state? About 1/3 of the lottery goes to education, 1/3 for administrative expenses and 1/3 for the winnings. The lottery surely helps but it aint the whole piece of pie.

  • CrazyFoxofCary Jul 11, 2013

    I am crossing my fingers the GA leaves well enough alone. There are enough scuffles between the Wake County Commissioners and the School Board... putting those 2 groups in charge of determining school requirements then getting agreement on building funds will add to the waste of time and $$ we taxpayers already endure

  • jankenpie Jul 11, 2013

    These conservatives want nothing but the destruction of public education. Failing schools??? Before the 50's we had no college graduates in our family, since then all 5 from our family graduated and their children. We have doctors, lawyers, business owners, and IT professionals, CPA's, and engineers all from NC wake county schools and NC Universities...Duke Carolina ECU etc. My daughter who attends Middle Creek is being recruited and is an all A student. Darn those Failing Schools! I'm just scared the current GA will destroy our education system before my last is out of here. I worry about the future kids with these nuts in charge. Just look and listen to them, people with low IQ and intellect in charge of your children's future. So sad for NC.

  • Krimson Jul 11, 2013

    "It is after all my right."

    Fair enough.

    "And when folks like yourself insist on throwing more and more at failing things... I tend to disagree and want things changed."

    We're talking about a bond so we can build more schools to house the ever increasing school population. How does preventing the building of more space help alleviate failure? Wouldn't you be harming your own children by forcing them into ever-increasing class sizes? And the schools will be built - either through a bond or through a raise in property taxes. IMO the bond is better for us home owners. YMMV...

  • everylittlebithelps Jul 11, 2013

    Wasn't this what the Education Lottery supposed to do--fund School Construction?

  • djofraleigh Jul 11, 2013

    Nothing about the Wake Board, this one or the last, gives me confidence in their spending the millions in tax dollars wisely and without favoring those who favor them, so I wouldn't care of the county commissioners took over, but then, I would have to look at them. The reasons given by both sides are bull, for the difference in views is politically driven.