Bond vote

Say yes to the Wake school bond

October 3, 2013 

Every few years, recognizing that bonds are the best and most financially efficient way to pay for public school construction and improvements, Wake County commissioners and school board members ask the voters’ approval to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars. Time and again in this county, where the school system is the state’s largest and among its best, citizens have said yes.

They have not been sorry. Wake’s schools are the envy of many systems within the state and a model for a number around the country. Yes, the board that governs those schools has had its moments of turbulence in recent years. Yes, there is room for improvement in testing scores. Yes, the charter school movement (a publicly funded movement, by the way) and private schools and homeschooling provide competition for conventional public schools.

But year after year, decade after decade, the vast majority of Wake County parents rely on the public schools to educate and nurture their children, and they are by overwhelming percentages satisfied with the results.

They call the names of those teachers and coaches who found in their kids a special spark and made those students what they became, and that is no exaggeration. Those teachers and principals and counselors they view as family members. These good people, still woefully underpaid and too often made political targets by politicians who don’t know any better, change lives for the better.

This school bond referendum, which would authorize $810 million in borrowing against the county’s top-notch credit rating, is about building new schools, renovating older ones and updating equipment and technology. Without addressing these needs, classes will be painfully crowded, and students will suffer shortages of the tools they need to learn.

So this is about people. About children. About the future.

Let’s look at the argument made by some that people who have no children in the schools have no reason to support the bonds.

If school quality declines – and updating buildings and the like is part of maintaining that quality – Wake County will lose new business that boosts the economy, from increasing the value of newer and older homes to bringing more customers for businesses to delivering more services for those of all ages to broadening the tax base for more revenue to improve streets and maintain public safety. Those things make this area a better place to live in, for the people who already are here and for those who are coming.

All benefit, whether they have children or not. To stand still is to stagnate.

This is everyone’s bond issue. This is everyone’s school system. The consequences of failure belong to all, as do the benefits of success.

If this bond issue passes, property taxes in Wake County will go up from 53.4 cents per $100 of assessed value to 58.9 cents. On the average Wake home worth $263,500, the 5.53-cent hike will translate to $145 a year. That’s less than $3 a week. That’s a gas station sandwich or a fancy cup of coffee.

The naysayers, the anti-tax advocates, the cynics who have cheered Republican lawmakers as they’ve made targets of public school teachers who dared to criticize their cuts to education, don’t want to talk about the benefits of public education.

No, they’re against bond issues such as this one because they don’t think they should have to spend that $3 a week and because they’d be perfectly happy with school lots covered in trailers and with classrooms jam-packed with students who can’t hear and can’t see and can’t concentrate.

So what? They seem to be saying. That’s good enough.

Thankfully, Wake County residents don’t settle for good enough for themselves and especially for their children. They will not settle for mediocre schools because they know the next step down is poor schools. And once schools in a particular district get a bad reputation, new business doesn’t come calling, and in the long term businesses already present leave and growth doesn’t just stop, it goes into reverse.

Come Tuesday, we ask the residents of Wake County to vote their confidence, not their resentment. We ask them to vote their hopes and dreams. We ask them to vote for their children and themselves. We ask them to vote for a better future for all of us.

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