Date: June 25, 2012
Like many parents, I listened with shock to the news on June 20 that Wake County Public School System may once again ditch its student assignment plan for another. Less than a year after the Wake County school board implemented a "choice" plan designed to allow students to choose schools near their homes, school board members are now thinking of returning to assigning students to "base" schools and "busing" students for diversity.
Parents are fed up. From talking with other parents, one point is clear: We're in the dark. No parent I've spoken to understands how the system works or can be sure where our kids will go to school. Uncertainty breeds fear and frustration. It's clear to us that the Wake County Board of Education, which is not supposed to be a political body, is voting partisan politics. Democrats support a base school system while Republicans favor choice. Which parent wouldn't want their kids to go a school close to home and to have more of a say in where they go? But I believe the trade-off of having "neighborhood" schools will be the growth of low-performing schools in low-income areas.
What's the solution? No one knows, and while I applaud the Wake school board's zeal in seeking new approaches to schooling, I think what we really need is more money funded to schools in general to bring up the standard of all schools in the state. What we're doing now is spending less, not more, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released June 21. North Carolina ranked 45th in the nation in per-student spending on public schools in 2010. The report found that the state's public school systems spent an average of $8,409 per-student in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, compared to national per-student spending of $10,615, according to the News & Observer. Yet Wake County spent even less than the state average, dispensing only $7,727 per pupil. North Carolina's per-student spending declined 2.1 percent in 2010 compared with 2009, while across the nation, per-student spending rose 1.1 percent.
Schools are like anything else, you get what you pay for. A better funded school system would mean we could offer better pay for teachers, improve the quality of teaching and staff morale and fund teacher assistant positions, which would free teachers to do their jobs. More schools could be built, current schools maintained and kids provided with the tools they need to compete in a global market.