A bill introduced in the state Senate Thursday would allow county governments to take ownership, construction and maintenance of schools away from school systems.
The bill, which was prompted by a request from the Wake County Board of Commissioners, would allow all 100 counties to assume responsibility for owning, siting, acquiring, constructing, repairing and renovating schools. The bill is supported by county governments but is opposed by school districts, including the Wake County school board.
The bill is expected to get approval in the Republican-led state legislature. One of the primary sponsors is Sen. Neal Hunt, a Raleigh Republican. The bill also has a powerful primary sponsor in Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican.
The Republican majority on the Wake Board of Commissioners argues that it can do a better job of school construction and maintenance than the school system. They also say that a school construction bond issue is more likely to pass if they and not the school system owns schools. The N.C. Association of County Commissioners is backing the change in school ownership.
But the Democratic majority on the Wake County school board says theyve done a good job of building and maintaining schools and that they have more experience than the county does on this area. The N.C. School Boards Association is opposing the bill.
Both the Wake school board and commissioners have hired lobbyists to try to influence legislators. School board members made their case to the Wake delegation on Monday a week after commissioners made their pitch.
In addition to requesting the school ownership bill, Wake commissioners have asked for changes in state law that would allow them to help fund construction of charter schools and to make countywide at-large positions out of four of the nine school board seats . Bills with those provisions havent been introduced yet.