Robert L. Farmer: School system key to Wake County’s rise

August 10, 2013 

Wake County’s rise

In 1976, the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, Raleigh and Wake County school boards and the Wake County commissions requested that I draft and introduce a bill to merge the two school systems in Wake County. The bill passed and became effective in 1976.

It was done for specific reasons. There were grave concerns of the plight of our school systems. Taxes for both came from taxes on property in their respective areas. Business came to the county system area, causing growth to one system and losses to the other.

The Raleigh system experienced large-scale flight, emptying schools and sending achievement into a downward spiral. One was declining in student population and the other needed major tax increases for new schools when empty schools were 100 yards away.

The business community was worried about economic development and economic vitality. There was concern that businesses would not move into an area because of poor school systems.

The Chamber of Commerce indicated that if we did not have a good school system, new industries and businesses would not come and our business community would not grow and produce jobs.

So the merger of the two systems was accomplished primarily to stimulate growth and change the property tax formula.

After the merger, the new school system grew to become one of the best in the United States. Businesses and industries with jobs flooded Wake County. The number of students has grown from 50,000 to over 150,000. The Wake County area became the best place to work and the best place to live because of our good school system.

The General Assembly has made deep cuts in education to the detriment of the teachers and students.

I hope the General Assembly in the next session will reverse what it has done to education this past session. It has to be done if we want to create more jobs and keep the ones we now have.

Robert L. Farmer


The writer is a former member of the state House of Representatives 1970-77. The length limit was waived.

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