Joe Bryan, chairman of the Wake County commissioners, is in the catbird seat and he knows it. In fact, he and other Republicans in North Carolina these days are like catbirds on a wire, running the commissioners, the General Assembly and enjoying ownership of the governors office.
So perhaps, when the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce suggested a perfectly reasonable compromise to settle down a bitter and clearly partisan dispute between commissioners and the school board, Bryan didnt get his feathers ruffled in rejecting the idea, cold. Now, unfortunately, the stage is set for Republican state lawmakers to approve two potentially damaging bills that would deepen the divide between school board members and commissioners, who ought to be working together for the common good.
The bills are sponsored by Wake Sens. Neal Hunt and Chad Barefoot. One would change the election schedule for school board seats, redraw districts and create two regional seats. This plan, with the district design done by the General Assembly instead of the school board, is clearly intended to give Republicans a good chance at retaking a majority of seats on the board, a majority bitterly resented by commissioners because it fired now-former Superintendent Tony Tata.
The other bill would allow commissioners in all 100 counties to control ownership, design, construction and maintenance of schools, taking the power away from school boards. This, too, is really a slap at the Wake board.
The chamber proposes to divide that authority, giving schools authority over design, location and maintenance. Bryan says no.
These bills will deepen partisanship on the school board, which ideally ought to be nonpartisan, which it was not that long ago. But as they have on so many issues, including the agreement on a park for Raleigh on the Dorothea Dix hospital property, Republicans at all levels are thumbing their noses at all those who disagree with them. That is an abdication of the main responsibility of elected office, to listen and act in response to constituent concerns.