A win, sadly against Wake’s school board

April 23, 2013 

In a legislative session filled with many a bizarre bill, harsh partisanship and pettiness, zany and embarrassing rhetoric and mean-spirited Republicans legislating against the poor and the unemployed, Sen. Neal Hunt of Raleigh can still take a bow for a bill that may do the most damage to the most innocent bystanders, in this case the school children of Wake County.

Republican county commissioners, angry at Democratic school board members who spoiled and then ended the two-year Republican revolution party in local public education, called a legislative tune to which Hunt, who knows better, was eager to dance. Though he’s supposedly a member of the party of small government, the party that wants to get government out of your lives, don’t you know, Hunt had district lines for the local school board redrawn right on Jones Street, by that doggone state government from whom he was going to protect us.

And he also changed the dates of school board elections, moving them from odd-numbered years and the fall to even-numbered years and the spring.

The bill, which also changes the school board from nine district seats giving parents a direct connection to representatives from their own districts, to a seven-district, two-region setup, wherein parents will vote for a district member and a member representing half the district in a region. It’s a clear attempt to make it easier for deep-pocket Republicans with grudges and money to burn to re-take control of the board.

This partisan maneuver, which also might isolate minority voters according to two of Hunt’s more level-headed Wake legislative colleagues, was brought to us courtesy of the Wake commissioners, who are teaching a Democratic school board a lesson. What a lousy motivation for this kind of irresponsible legislation: revenge. Democratic Wake Sen. Josh Stein pegged it when he called it simply, “partisan payback.”

Rarely has the General Assembly seen a more blatant abuse of legislative power against a local government. The members of the Wake school board were duly and fairly elected. The Democratic majority took office because Republicans who had run the board for two years embarrassed the county with their rude, overbearing behavior, and two years after they’d taken control in 2009, their performance was rejected by voters. By the people. And yes, their superintendent, Tony Tata (now happily appointed as state secretary of transportation by a Republican governor) was dismissed by the new board.

So partisan Republicans in charge of the commissioners’ board took their revenge through Hunt, who’ll be held to account for this action should he seek re-election. Apparently, Republican commissioners figure if the GOP can’t take over the school board the conventional way, then the rules need to be changed.

This is despicable interference by state government in local government business. Hunt, a former Raleigh City Council member, should have kept his seat when the tune was called.

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