So what does the business community think of the proposal to turn over ownership of schools from the Wake County Board of Education to the Wake County Board of Commissioners?
During last week's joint meeting, Joe Bryan, commissioners chairman, brought up the 2008 proposal from the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce for the school board to give up school ownership to the county. Bryan then brought up the results of a more recent survey conducted by the Chamber.
“Surveys done recently through the Chamber suggest a large group of the population sees that is the best model for the county to own, build and maintain schools and it also improves potential passage of the school bond issue," Bryan said.
Bryan said the business community feel county ownership of schools is a“reasonable structural model.”
But school board chairman Keith Sutton said he had heard “quite a number of statements that are misleading." As an example, Sutton cited how Bryan didn't mention that the 2008 Chamber proposal also included the proviso that the county agree to increase funding for the school district's operating budget.
“As far as recent surveys, the Triangle Business Journal just did a survey of its own and found over 60 percent of its survey respondents felt that the school board should maintain ownership," Sutton said. "So the Chamber’s poll, I think, had about 700 or 800 respondents and they were all Chamber members. It seems the business community, quite honestly, appears to be split on this issue.”
How valid those surveys are is uncertain.
“We’re arguing about unscientific surveys to support our position," said school board member Tom Benton. "And those are unscientific surveys. None of us at the table, I think, can say with confidence what the public is really feeling because we all have our sources that tell us what they want to tell us.”
Commissioner Paul Coble said that "the only real scientific poll that’s going to be taken is on Election Day."
As for the Chamber survey, Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce President Harvey Schmitt declined to release the results to the media. He said the results were only shared with the leadership of both boards.
After the meeting, Bryan said he was told that more than 60 percent of the Chamber members who responded said they support giving school ownership to the county.
Bryan said that the reaction on the survey was negative on the county giving funding to help charter schools bull facilities.
Business community support will matter because that's where most of the funding comes from for the Friends of Wake County advocacy efforts to promote passage of a school bond.