House GOP advances bill to redraw Wake school board districts

Posted May 29, 2013
Updated May 30, 2013

— A proposal to redraw Wake County's school board districts for the second time in four years could be on the House floor Monday after passing the House Elections Committee Wednesday on strict party lines, 23-12. 

The latest version of Senate Bill 325 redraws the county's current nine school board districts into seven, turning the other two seats into "regional districts." Like a bulls-eye, a central district would represent the city, while an outer district would represent the rest of the county. 

It also moves the school board elections from odd-numbered years to November of even-numbered years. The new districts would take effect in 2016. The vote would be by plurality. 

Members up for re-election in 2013 would run in their old districts for three-year terms instead of four. 

Rep. Skip Stam, R-Wake, said the proposal would allow every voter to vote for two members of the school board instead of just one. He said many families whose children attend school in different board districts feel they don't have enough say in choosing members.

None of the current board members could attend Wednesday's meeting because it conflicted with their scheduled interview with superintendent finalists.  

“It's particularly inappropriate to take up a bill that affects their board when a majority of them opposes the bill and they’re not available to speak,”said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake.

If Republican sponsors wanted to let voters choose more than one school board member, Ross said,  they could simply have added two regional or at-large seats to the board.

"What is completely unnecessary in this bill is redrawing the lines for the seven current school board members to get rid of the ones certain people don’t like," she said. 

Ross also noted that the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and many members of the business community also oppose the redistricting. "They see stability in the school board as not only good for education but good for commerce," she said.

She tried to add a voter referendum to the bill – "Then, at least, you can find out from the people how they feel about this type of redistricting," she said – but the referendum was voted down. 

Wake County Commissioner Joe Bryan told the committee the majority of the Board of Commissioners favors the bill because it "improves on the system that exists today." 

But Commissioner Caroline Sullivan said redrawing the districts yet again would be "expensive and divisive," costing county taxpayers at least $240,000 to reprint and mail out new voter registration cards and print ballots for the many new split precincts the plan would create.

Attorney Claire Barnett with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice said the new plan violates equal protection and "one person one vote" because the populations of the new districts vary too widely.

In 2010, the Republican school board majority spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to pay for a redistricting plan that favored Republicans, Barnett said, but Democrats won a majority of the seats on the board in 2011 anyway.

"There’s no clear justification or rationale for this action aside from the obvious partisan advantages that come with this new plan," she said.

Rep. Elmer Floyd, D-Cumberland, moved to postpone the vote on the bill until June 6, when school board members could attend: "I think that this board needs to hear from them," he said.

But Stam spoke against the delay. "We know the majority of the school board is opposed to it," he said. "We need to go on with business."

The attempt to postpone the vote was voted down on strict party lines, 23-12.


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  • Crumps Br0ther May 31, 2013

    LOL. Did you just wake up, Rip Van Winkle? Don't act like the Democrats are any better.

    Hey, they *all* are thieves.

    Yah buts its different when dems do it. They hate losing by their own rules

  • Crumps Br0ther May 31, 2013

    The daddy state knows best.
    Kronic Complaner

    If only Bev had done a better job....

  • Jim Britt May 30, 2013

    The daddy state knows best.

  • Krimson May 30, 2013

    CJW: "bused ten miles or more one way to a magnet school"

    Considering the busing problem brought on by Tata's decisions, the Republicans shouldn't be pointing fingers. Anyways, people CHOOSE to go to Magnet Schools, so they CHOOSE to be bused there. People could always just CHOOSE to go to their nearby school, where ever that may be...

  • ncmike May 30, 2013

    Outright gerrymandering. And I vote for a GOP school board, but this is slime.

  • cjw6105 May 29, 2013

    Those of you who don't like Republicans re-drawing districts, just wait. Maybe next time it'll be your neighborhood which is forcibly bused ten miles or more one way to a magnet school, in order to uphold the Democrats' Holy Grail of the Wake County Public School System: racially balanced schools.

  • cringercat1862 May 29, 2013

    Obamacare has consequences......a Republican majority in state legislatures all over the USA. WE WON, GET OVER IT.

  • BernsteinIII May 29, 2013

    "Never seen a more lying, hypocritical bunch of politicians than the current crowd of REPUBLICANS in NC."

    LOL. Did you just wake up, Rip Van Winkle? Don't act like the Democrats are any better.

    Hey, they *all* are thieves.

  • Spock May 29, 2013

    "Never seen a more lying, hypocritical bunch of politicians than the current crowd..." geosol

    hmm... Open thy eyes and read current news about what is happening at the Federal level - and you think our state has issues?

  • geosol May 29, 2013

    Don't worry about this and all of the other right wing REPUBLICAN nonsense coming from Jones Street these days. It will all be reversed after the next election. Never seen a more lying, hypocritical bunch of politicians than the current crowd of REPUBLICANS in NC.