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Senate Democrats charge school construction bill is targeting Wake County school board

Are state Senate Republicans just giving some county governments more flexibility over school construction or are they trying to exact more political payback on the Democratic-led Wake County school board?

As noted in today's article, Senate Democrats charged that Republican legislators were deliberately going after the Wake school board in Senate Bill 236. Senate Republicans denied politics were involved, just as they denied that politics was behind Senate Bill 325, the Wake school board redistricting bill.

The bill comes as the Wake County school board and county commissioners meet this morning to go over a proposed $939.9 million school construction program that would largely be funded by the fall bond issue.

State Senate passes bill letting Wake County Commissioners take over school construction

In a late addition to today's calendar, the state Senate approved legislation that would allow the Wake County Board of Commissioners and eight other county boards to take over school construction.

Senate Bill 236 was approved 33-15 with Republicans in support and Democrats in opposition. Sen. Neal Hunt said the bill just makes business sense for commissioners to be in charge of construction.

But Sen. Josh Stein charged the bill was targeted at Wake County and was "payback" for the public voting in a Democratic school board majority. Sen. Dan Blue charged it was another case of "meddling" in the affairs of Wake and ensures defeat of the school bond issue this fall.

The bill now goes to the state House.

State Senate committee approves revised school construction bill

More to come later, but the state Senate Education Committee approved this morning a revised version of Senate 236 Bill, the school construction bill.

The bill, which now goes to the Finance Committee, now only affects nine counties, including Wake County. An amendment from Sen. Josh Stein to drop Wake was rejected.

Stein and school board vice chairwoman Christine Kushner basically raised the points from the school district handout for why the county shouldn't take over schools. They argued the system now works and doesn't need to be changed.

Sen. Neal Hunt argued that commissioners have more business experience than school board members. Joe Bryan, chairman of the board of commissioners, told the committee that the school board had become "a board of construction versus a board of education."

UPDATE

The state Senate is moving quickly today to adopt Senate Bill 236. The Senate Finance Committee added the bill to its agenda and approved the legislation.

It's been added to today's calendar for a vote by the full Senate..

Wake County school system citing construction experience

The Wake County school system has been working to persuade state legislators why it would be a mistake to allow county commissioners to take over school construction.

As the state Senate Education Committee discusses Senate Bill 236 this morning, don't be surprised if Democratic lawmakers repeat some of the arguments that the school system has made in this handout.

Wake's handout focuses on the school system having more construction experience, both in schools and in general, than the county.

Wake County school board member Bill Fletcher says school construction bill "should be stopped"

Wake County school board member Bill Fletcher is calling a bill turning over school construction to the county commissioners "bad legislation" that "should be stopped."

In this letter to the editor today, Fletcher complains that Senate Bill 236 "removes the school system from having any input into what is built, where it is built and when it is built." He writes that "it abolishes the system of checks and balances that has worked well for Wake County residents for decades."

"The people responsible for providing high-quality education in safe, nurturing environments will have absolutely no say in what goes into new schools and renovations in the future," Fletcher writes. "All decisions about future school buildings will rest with only the county commissioners."

His letter comes as the state Senate Education Committee will pick up the bill Wednesday.

1368571766 Wake County school board member Bill Fletcher says school construction bill "should be stopped" The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Changing the cost of the Fuquay-Varina High School renovations

It turns out that potential renovations to Fuquay-Varina High School don't cost $82 million after all.

Joe Bryan, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, has complained at the last two joint meetings about the $82 million price tag for Fuquay-Varina High. He's questioned why the renovation would cost so much.

School staff now say that the figure is actually $63 million. Joe Desormeaux, assistant superintendent for facilities, told school board members last week that "we found an error in our program on the cost per square foot that did a significant change as you can see with Fuquay-Varina."

The Fuquay-Varina High renovation isn't on the short list of recommended projects for the fall bond issue. The bond list will be discussed at Thursday's joint meeting of the school board and commissioners.

Wake County school board voting on budget and student assignment policy today

Student assignment, the school budget and the bond issue are among the items the Wake County school board will deal with today.

The board will hold the first of two scheduled votes on this revised student assignment policy that would incorporate as goals minimizing concentrations of low-performing and low-income students at schools.

On a related diversity note, the school board will vote on approving a budget that asks county commissioners for an $8.3 million increase in funding. This request includes $218,000 to create an Office of Equity and Diversity, which could elicit questions from some commissioners.

During the work session, the board will continue to refine the list of projects that would be funded out of this fall's proposed school bond referendum. One thing to see is if board members call for revising the original staff list to cut the number of new schools in order to increase funding on renovation projects.

John Hood defending Wake County school board election bill

John Hood is disputing that the Wake County school board redistricting bill is an attack by the Republican majority in the General Assembly against local representation.

In this column today in the Carolina Journal, Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation, notes the bills that would transfer control of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and Asheville's water systems to regional authorities.

Instead of being an attack on localities, Hood writes that both bills are the legislature's attempt to "intervene in disputes among several different, duly elected localities." He then ties that back into Senate Bill 325, which is supported by the the county commissioners but is opposed by the school board.

Bill would prevent NC school boards from suing county commissioners for more money

Should North Carolina's public school systems lose the ability to sue county commissioners for more funding?

As noted in today's article, Senate Bill 674 would change state law so that school boards could no longer sue their county commissioners for more funding for the operating budget or over getting more money to purchase land.

Under state law, school boards who are involved in funding disputes can seek mediation. If that fails, school boards can file a lawsuit in Superior Court.

Getting the Wake County school board to publicly support a 2013 school bond date

It took a bit of prodding Thursday before Wake County school board members finally agreed to publicly support having a school bond this year.

Following the consensus vote in favor of a $900 million school construction program, Commissioner Tony Gurley noted that commissioners have made a successful school bond their top goal this year.

Gurley asked school board members if it's their goal this year as well to have a successful bond issue. Gurley asked because several school board members have publicly talked about not going with an Oct. 8 bond vote in favor of waiting until spring 2014.

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