Wake’s GOP votes against schools

August 22, 2013 

Even with two Republican county commissioners and a Republican school board member supporting the proposed $810 million school bond issue set for an October vote, the Wake County Republican Party came out against it.

The vote was weak. It was embarrassing. It was a low moment in the history of the party and, for that matter, the county – especially given that party leaders said their opposition really has more to do with the school board’s Democratic majority than it does with schools.

Now there’s a courageous stand for you.

So just because some GOP members resent the fact that voters kicked out a Republican school board majority after two years of ineptitude and vindictiveness, the party is ready to hurt the children of the county. All of them.

What a petty and destructive way to act. Does this party favor anything? Is its soul all about revenge and retribution?

And here’s the thing: If the bond issue fails, the revenge won’t be about showing the Democrats a thing or two.

Consequences

Perhaps the 17-16 vote should not be surprising given that Wake County’s Republican commissioners failed to get state lawmakers to give them control and ownership of school property – and given the legislature’s “successful” redrawing of school district lines to make them more advantageous to Republicans. This petulant vote is likely more of the same Democrat-bashing and cynicism toward public schools that now are hallmarks of Republican leaders on Jones Street.

But voting down the bond issue will mean school buildings in disrepair, classes bulging at the seams, low-paid teachers trying to do their jobs without adequate supplies and technology. If the county Republicans, at least those who “won” this vote, wanted to see just how low they could go, congratulations, they’ve made it to the bottom of the political barrel.

This is part of a pattern. Republican leaders in the General Assembly pummeled school teachers and failed to adequately fund public education – and then tried to deny they’d done it. They were rather like 5-year-olds who deny breaking into the cookie jar even when the crumbs are still on their faces.

And Gov. Pat McCrory has joined in on the bashing, a disheartening sign after several generations of chief executives who were “education governors” and proud of it.

GOP’s slide

Are there Republicans who differ with this one-vote margin? Obviously there are. They must not retreat from the front lines when the campaign for the school bonds intensifies. These Republicans, prominent business people among them, simply have to separate themselves from extremists who care more about ideology than the practical and devastating consequences of a failed bond referendum.

Fortunately, while Gov. McCrory may laugh off the opinions of those parents and community leaders who are fearful about the future of public schools, many citizens with a personal stake in the schools and others who recognize they have a stake even if they do not have school-age children do not share his shallow and disrespectful attitude.

The county isn’t batting 1,000 on school bonds, but the record of support is excellent even against pockets of angry, anti-government opponents who would put the county’s future at risk just because they don’t like Democrats. Schools have a tremendous effect on business recruitment and jobs.

Nothing short of the welfare of roughly 150,000 children in the state’s largest school system is at stake in this bond referendum. And their numbers are increasing, 3,000 or so a year, as people move to a region traditionally viewed as one of the state’s most progressive.

If the bond issue is beaten, Wake County will struggle just to maintain the quality of its schools and will be put years behind in trying to improve them.

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