Has the new Wake County student assignment plan discouraged businesses from coming to the area?
As noted in today's article by Thomas Goldsmith, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane caused a stir when she raised the issue during the joint meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association and the school board. McFarlane said she is starting to hear that some businesses have second thoughts about coming here.
Harvey Schmitt, president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and a backer of the new choice plan, said he was not aware of any company that has chosen not to relocate to Raleigh because of the school system. Schmitt said that McFarlane was, understandably, reacting to anxiety expressed by constituents in pockets of town where schools are in high demand and overcrowded.
Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, was skeptical of the Chamber's influence.
"The Chamber is a downtown Raleigh-focused group," Brannon said. "They don't represent the parents. They don't represent the community."
Brannon also denied that Great Schools or its parent group, WakeUp Wake County, influenced McFarlane to speak out Wednesday. Ron McFarlane, the mayor’s husband, was on the board of WakeUp Wake County, in 2011 and is now listed on the group’s non-voting board of advisers.
“What you’re seeing is the business community finally turning their attention to student assignment and telling the school board and city councils why it won’t work," Brannon said. "It’s flattering to say that it’s because of us.”
McFarlane's public comments caused the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors, to issue its own statement on Wednesday.
"This is a very complex issue and because we don’t have all the facts at this point, it’s impossible for us to take a position," said the RRAR statement. "However, it is very important to our members, our association and parents in Wake County. We will be keeping a very close eye on the situation.
We are eager to continue working with the school system and will be closely evaluating this as it unfolds. We want to make sure we continue to have an excellent school system and that Wake County remains the growing, dynamic area that we all enjoy."
Brannon is still hoping to persuade the school board to delay implementation for the 2012-13 school year.
“We have a big problem and the sooner that we deal with the problem, the better," Brannon said. "If we wait until the summer it will only get worse.
We’re going to lose so much confidence in the community that it will be a bad situation to ask the public to raise taxes for a school bond. We can’t sit around and wait another year with that much unhappiness in the community.”