Wake school board facing more backlash

Wake County School Board

March 5, 2010 4:16:06 AM PST
As things heat up with the Wake County school board some are questioning the background of some of the board members - wondering if they should be either a parent or an educator to be able to run for a school board seat. But ABC11 Eyewitness News has learned it would be illegal to limit the requirements for public office to being a parent or an educator. North Carolina's constitution says as long as someone is at least 21-years-old and eligible to vote, they can run - it's up to voters to decide whether or not someone's qualified.

The school board members setting policy for the state's largest school system is a diverse group of parents, educators, business and community leaders, even a family physician - some have children in Wake County schools, some do not.

Now that a new Republican backed majority has taken over and sweeping changes are underway, some are questioning if the background should be an issue.

But the head of the Democratic Party says not really.

"I think a mix is much better," Jack Nichols said.

Nichols says a better argument is whether some of the school board seats should be at-large; serving the entire county since the policies they impose effect the entire county. Currently, school board members are elected by voters just in their districts.

"Essentially you have about 2 to 5 percent of folks who voted in the county who happened to have elected four members, plus one who's there saying they have a mandate when that hasn't happened at all," Nichols said.

Out of nearly 500,000 voters in Wake County, less than 22,000 put the four new members in office creating the new majority and sweeping changes that are stirring up criticism from the NAACP.

And support for the leadership from conservatives.

Russell Capps heads the conservative Wake County Taxpayers Association. He also supports at-large elections and diverse board members, but strongly feels the next superintendent should be a business leader.

"Since this is the largest business in Wake County especially in the Wake County budget, I mean millions and millions and millions of dollars, the largest business here," Capps said. "They need a good solid business manager."

There has been an unsuccessful push in the past to change the way school board members are elected. All the tension with the new board is reigniting the debate. The four minority members will be up for re-election next year as is the Republican Chairman Ron Margiotta.

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