Commissioners make case over school construction

February 25, 2013 3:43:18 PM PST
The fight over who should decide where new schools are built and how much they should cost has gone from Wake County meeting rooms to the halls of the State Legislature.

Monday was a chance for state lawmakers from Wake County to hear firsthand why county commissioners think they should have the power of the purse when it comes to new school construction.

Normally county school boards across the state decide how much money should be spent on building new schools, or where they should go?

However, an increasingly public fight in Wake County may be the catalyst that changes that.

"The system is set up now because it was done through legislation," said Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley. "What we're trying to do is change the way it's done now."

Gurley has been pushing for a change in state law that would give the county the power of the purse when it comes to new school construction.

"We think it's a good idea for a better use of the taxpayers' money for the people paying for it to be in charge of all the facilities at the same time," said Gurley.

The fight playing out in Wake County may be happening in a couple dozen other school districts around the state, at least according to Rep. Paul Stam.

He'll be pushing for the change in the law, and, if it happens, all county boards throughout the Tar Heel State would wrest control of new school construction from their respective school boards.

"This would allow the school board members to concentrate on helping us get the best education for our children and let the county commission do what they do better," said Stam.

However, not everyone is on board.

"I don't even want to think how this will play out," said Rep. Rosa Gill, (D) Wake County.

Gill says she'll vote against the change. School matters, she says, should rest with the school board.

"If the schools are responsible for educating the kids, they should have total control of how to educate kids, and that includes where schools are and where to build them," said Gill.

Next week, members of the school board will get their chance to convince lawmakers why they should hold onto the purse strings. Expect a key argument of theirs to be their track record of building new schools in Wake County.

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