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Senate approves measure redrawing Wake school board districts

Posted April 22, 2013
Updated April 23, 2013

Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, has proposed new Wake County school districts.
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— Wake County's school board districts will be reshuffled into a new system starting in 2016 under a bill the state Senate approved Monday night. 

The measure, which passed 33-17, would change school board elections from odd-numbered years when city councils are elected to the primaries of even-numbered years, when partisan candidates for the General Assembly and Congress are chosen. 

"These maps were drawn without any public input, against the will of the school board and for transparently partisan reasons," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, blasting the measure as "polarizing."

Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said he was pushing the bill for two reasons. First, Hunt said he wanted to improve voter turnout, which has been light in off-year elections.

"You don't have to redistrict in order to move the election years," Stein pushed back.

Hunt said he also wanted to make sure that parents could vote for a school board member who represent the schools where their children attend school. Currently, he said, some students travel from one school board member's district to another.

Stein blasted this rationale as well.

"The irony of this bill is it doesn't even accomplish the bill sponsor's stated purpose," Stein said. "The chance your child will not (go to school) in the district where you live increases substantially under this map." 

Wake Critics offer impassioned resistance to Wake redistricting plan

No other Republican rose to back the bill. 

Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, also criticized the measure, saying it would inject race-based politics into the school board's maps. 

Hunt's map converts the county's nine individual school board districts into seven individual districts. It also creates two regional districts. Voters would chose one of the seven individual members and one of the regional members. 

Both Blue and Stein pointed to similarities Hunt's school board maps shared with legislative maps drawn on the basis of race.

"It offends me to the quick. It makes me want to yell," Blue said. 

The measure is a local bill, which means Gov. Pat McCrory does not have a say on the matter. It now goes to the House for lawmakers there to review.

56 Comments

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  • westernwake1 Apr 29, 6:36 p.m.

    "@ westernwake1 Perhaps you should have read the document that was referenced by wikipedia about the "fact" that the Legislature "forced" the change after the referendum failed to pass. Here is what the actual document said about the vote and what came after."

    There is only so much that can fit in 1000 characters. Nothing I stated takes away from this aspect of the history of the Wake County school system, but the intent was to focus on the gerrymandering of the school board voting districts that occurred post post merger and the implementation of voting in odd years... that was simply a political stunt by the Democratic state legislature in the late 70s to ensure the Wake School Board had a Democratic majority.

    The steps by the current Republican State Assembly simply serve to undo these changes and increase voter turn-out by holding school board elections on even years (with everything else) and to increase at-large county representation.

  • Pensive01 Apr 24, 10:33 a.m.

    @ westernwake1
    Perhaps you should have read the document that was referenced by wikipedia about the "fact" that the Legislature "forced" the change after the referendum failed to pass. Here is what the actual document said about the vote and what came after.

    "The pervasive fear that merging the city and county systems would destroy a sense of community was evident when voters rejected a non-binding merger referendum by a resounding 3-1 margin in 1973. However, the referendum’s discouraging defeat, while certainly a searing indication of just how much opposition the merger faced, was not legally binding. School officials from both districts turned to a clause in North Carolina law allowing merger without a public vote."

  • westernwake1 Apr 24, 8:50 a.m.

    The next question is - how did the Democratic majority North Carolina General Assembly gerrymander the new Wake County school system voting districts in the late 1970s?

    Directly after the merger the school voting districts were aligned with towns. For example the Garner area had its own district. At that time the city was 'densely' populated and the county lightly populated. There was a growing RTP professional population residing in North Raleigh.

    The state legislature re-drew the school system voting districts to resemble a pizza pie with Raleigh at the center. Each 'wedge' got a highly dense section of Raleigh and spread out into lightly populated county areas. This ensured a Democratic majority in the majority of the new county school system voting districts; while reducing the voice of all the non-Raleigh areas in Wake County in regards to schools.

  • westernwake1 Apr 24, 8:24 a.m.

    The current Wake schools system was created by a merger of the Raleigh City and Wake County school systems in 1976. The merger was stronly opposed by residents of both and voted down 3 to 1 in a referendum in 1973. 'School and business leaders instead convinced the North Carolina General Assembly to force the merger.'

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wake_County_Public_School_System#History

    The inner city Raleigh school district leaned heavily Democratic and the county school district leaned Republican. After the merger the combined board included representatives from both the former city and county board. The state legislature believed the board leaned too heavily Republican. By 1979 the state legislature took measures to change the voting cycle to odd years in hopes that city voters would turn out but county voters not for off-cycle low-turnout elections. The legislature also re-did the voting districts to force a democratic majority from the city to dominate each district.

  • WralCensorsAreBias Apr 23, 7:05 p.m.

    "What is your beef with magnet schools?"

    What about all the other schools? The ones without all the bells and whistles? Where's all their extra programs and opportunities?

    Give me a break.

  • WralCensorsAreBias Apr 23, 7:03 p.m.

    "It is too much to ask for at this point to hope our education system is not politicized."

    No it is not. Most normal, common folk, would agree and say they want the same. However, for some reason, Wake County voters have a track record of flip flopping more than Bill Clinton. This time they say they want one thing, next time it's the opposite. Until the voters wake up and elect better people, people on the same consistent path, nothing changes. This current school board should scare every parent in this community because they are easily the worst to ever serve.

  • westernwake1 Apr 23, 6:57 p.m.

    "Going to just as soon as we can. Every last one of the latest kuku liberal magnet school supporters that sit on that school board now and only care about their precious magnet schools are gone thanks to this bill" - NoTimeForStupidity

    What is your beef with magnet schools? Magnets have been proven to be a very effective method of improving educational performance, providing speciality education (arts, science, language, etc.) and promoting diversity (voluntarily without forced bussing).

    I should also note that many magnet concepts were driven by Tata and the republican board including the leadership academies and K-8 academies (Hilburn, etc.). Magnet schools are not really an idea driven by 'liberals'; they have support across the political spectrum.

  • westernwake1 Apr 23, 6:51 p.m.

    "It is too much to ask for at this point to hope our education system is not politicized." - samr

    I agree with you that it is unfortunate our school board elections are so politicized.

    I think the solution to this problem for Wake County is to have even year elections that increase voter turnout and to have at-large elections for at least 4 of the 9 board positions. This will create a school board that is more representative of the entire county - and one where a greater percentage of voters had involvement in electing.

    and yes... I recognize that in this case the state legislature Republican vote aligns with these objectives, but it is not their underlying reason for doing it.

  • samr Apr 23, 5:01 p.m.

    WesternWake -- if your history lesson is true (and I have always known you to be forthright) then it wasn't right back thne and it is not right now. It is too much to ask for at this point to hope our education system is not politicized.

  • goldenosprey Apr 23, 3:28 p.m.

    WesternWack

    Please tell me you are not crying "voter suppression"!!

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