In a democracy, its vital that all people be free to express opinions, but there is or used to be an idea that people would debate facts, not fictions. Unfortunately, thats not the case with the Wake County Taxpayers Association and its opposition to the $810 million school construction bond issue that will be decided Oct. 8.
The association says the school board has manufactured a need for space in the growing school system. Why they would isnt clear. Ed Jones, chairman of the taxpayers association, suggests its because they are spendaholics.
It seems to us the school board consistently overestimates student needs, growth projections, student achievement and their financial wants to justify new and extravagant spending, Jones said in a video produced by the group.
Not only are the boards enrollment projections inflated, the association says, but there are thousands of empty seats in the district.
Its true that projections that accompanied the 2006 school bond issue overestimated current enrollment by more than 20,000 students. But those who made the projections, like almost everyone else, didnt foresee the bursting of the housing bubble, the financial crisis and the Great Recession. Now the economy is coming back, and enrollment is once more starting to gallop. The school system, already the states largest with 153,000 students, is projected to add as many as 20,000 students in the next five years. There is every reason to expect that growth to continue.
But why not skip the bonds and force the school system to use space it already has? Teaching students is different from filling warehouses. Its not a question of raw space; its a question of appropriate space, safe conditions and proper equipment. Thats why much of the bond revenue goes to renovating poorly functioning buildings.
Its fine to take a sharp pencil to the school boards bond request, but the need is clear without fine calculations. County taxes havent gone up for five years. Its time to approve the bonds and preserve the quality of schools that help make Wake County an excellent place to live.