Tata defends proposed changes in Wake school schedules

khui@newsobserver.comFebruary 17, 2012 

— Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata defended today proposed school schedules for this fall against charges from an advocacy group that the changes are part of an attempt to hide the cost of the new student assignment plan.

The Great Schools in Wake Coalition contends that the $10 million that Tata has said can be saved from changing start and dismissal times “is a smoke screen designed to mask the significant, undocumented costs of the new assignment plan.”

But Tata said the proposed changes have “nothing to do with the assignment plan.” He said that the changes are needed during the midst of a tough budget time as a way to save money without having to make cuts in classroom spending.

“This is part of an effort to save money without going into the classroom,” Tata said during a news conference today. “I’m not sure why that’s a hard concept.”

Tata also said today that administrators have been reviewing the 9,452 comments that came in during a survey of the changes in school times.

“We’ll probably make a few changes based on the feedback,” Tata said.

Tata says the new transportation plan allows Wake to extend bus routes to pick up more students without adding new buses and also gives drivers more time to make their runs.

Tata said the proposal will allow Wake to save $4 million in state funding that would be lost if bus routes were left unchanged. He said that they can also save $6 million that would have been spent on buying and operating buses.

Tata said that the school transportation system has become inefficient over time and needed to be revised.

But the changes would impact most of Wake’s 146,000 students and their parents. Most schools would see changes of 10 minutes or less each day. Eighteen schools would see changes of at least 50 minutes a day.

Great Schools has been a frequent critic of both Tata and the new student assignment plan. The group had opposed the elimination of busing for socioeconomic diversity. It has called for delaying implementation of the new choice-based assignment plan that promotes sending students to schools near where they live.

Great Schools has repeatedly charged that Tata hasn’t disclosed the true financial costs of the new assignment plan. Tata said they’ve regularly presented data on the financial impact of the plan.

In a statement today, Great Schools chairwoman Yevonne Brannon said that “Tata's actions continue to erode the public's trust.” Brannon accuses Tata of presenting the school schedule changes on Feb. 7 “as if it were a 'done deal.'

Tata denied the allegations, pointing to how they’ve been getting feedback on the proposal from the public. He said that unlike past years, staff is presenting the proposed schedules changes before school assignments are finalized.

The school board is scheduled to discuss the student assignment plan and the school schedule changes at a Tuesday work session.

“In the interest of all Wake County residents, we are asking that our School Board demand a full disclosure of assignment and transportation plan details before any more costly decisions are made," Brannon said in the statement. "It is time for the Board to take back the reins and rebuild trust with the community.”

Hui: 919-829-4534

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service