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Concerned parents and citizens packed a Monday evening meeting of Wake County lawmakers to unanimously express their opposition for two bills that would effectively weaken the power of the Wake County school board. More than 100 people signed up to speak about both the education bills and Senate Bill 334, legislation that would tear up the state’s contract with Raleigh for the Dorothea Dix campus.

Sponsored by Sen. Neal Hunt (R-Wake), who came to the meeting late and left early, SB 236 would seize control of school facilities and construction from the Wake County school board and give that control to the county commissioners. Supporters of the bill say that this will allow the school board to focus on education and not have to worry about business matters; opponents say the construction of school facilities is directly related to the education programs that serve students and control should remain with the school board.

In opposition to SB 236, Raleigh citizen Lynn Edmonds said “school programming is directly related to school facilities. What teachers do and what goes on in the classroom is closely tied to the design of school buildings.”

“It is the school board, not the commissioners, who have great experience in designing and building high quality schools for Wake County,” explained Edmonds.

SB 325, which would overturn the most recent school board election, has “retribution all over it,” said one concerned citizen. The bill would redraw districts, which were just redrawn in 2011, and change when school board members are elected, forcing some current members from their seats early. Senators Hunt and Barefoot sponsored the bill.

The chair of the League of Women Voters, Mary Martorella, explained to lawmakers that “SB 325 would change election district boundaries and the way school board members are elected. The League believes these actions defy principles of democracy.”

An advocate for fair elections, Anita Earls, also voiced her concern for the redistricting bill. “Current districts are not unconstitutional nor do they violate the Fair Voting Act. I believe SB 325, as written, is unconstitutional.

Two former Wake School Board members rose to speak of the partisan politics that dominate the school board today, noting that in the past politics were kept out of decisions affecting the education of Wake school children. Citizen John Reader said that SB 325 was simply a “power grab to put the GOP in control again. It is retribution for dismissing Tata,” referring to Tony Tata, the former superintendent of Wake County schools.

Two hours was not enough time to address the concerns of all who were in attendance. The next meeting of the Wake delegation will take place in two weeks.

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It doesn’t happen often, so relish the chance to say the following: Rick Martinez, the arch-conservative columnist for Raleigh’s News & Observer is right — or, at least , mostly.  

Martinez’ column this morning rightfully takes the General Assembly to task for its absurd meddling in the business of local governments – most notably the ridiculous plans to rig the elections for the Wake County School Board and cancel the Dix Park deal.  

While the column is far from perfect — Martinez slices the baloney too thin and attempts to distiguish between the election rigging plan and the equally absurd effort to give Wake Commissioners control over school facilities and also includes inaccurate digs at the current school board’s policies and the substance of the Dix deal — it’s on the money on the basic premise.

Let’s hope his friends on the far right aren’t too drunk with power to pay attention.

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Kieran ShanahanYou know things are sliding pretty far right when one of the truest, conservative fire-breathers can’t satisfy the people running things at the General Assembly.

As reported here last week and by lots of other news outlets, conservatives at the General Assembly are pushing legislation to seize control of the Wake County Board of Education (along with several other insufficiently compliant local governmental bodies) by reducing the Board’s authority and rigging its electoral districts and election schedule. Indeed, according to conservative school board member John Tedesco, more such proposals are on the way.

Here, however, is one of the more ironic aspects of this whole shameful set of affairs: the Wake County district maps in question — the ones being redrawn again because the Right doesn’t like the board they produced — were drawn by conservative lawyer, long-time Locke Foundation patron and current McCrory administration official, Kieran Shanahan. Read More

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Neal HuntEven a lot of people who are sympathetic to the rightward tilt in state public policy in North Carolina of late were shocked and embarrassed by the General Assembly’s recent effort to enact a controversial power-grab bill that would fire dozens of duly-appointed board and commission members. Now, it appears there is a local, Wake County version of this effort in the General Assembly.

As reported by Raleigh’s News & Observer late last night, a new bill from Senator Neal Hunt (pictured at left) would change the rules of how school board members are elected in the capital county in a way that is clearly designed to alter the board’s power structure and move things in a conservative direction.

It’s hard to believe that anyone could advance such a blatant power grab with a straight face. Even the Republican chair of the Wake Board of Commissioners expressed some surprise at the sweeping scope of the proposal. Given their record thus far in the 2013 session, however, it appears that neither shame nor embarrassment are conditions that tend to afflict the conservative ideologues running the show on Jones Street.

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An editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer does an excellent job of pointing out the latest absurd and petulant behavior of the conservative majority of the Wake County Board of Commissioners in its relationship with the county’s school board.

As the editorial notes, “GOP commissioners went at the school board with the zeal of partisan score settling” with the move to have their friends in the General Assembly seize power from the school board and vest it in them.

The editorial also rightfully characterizes the move to change how school board members are elected as a “doozy.” It notes: Read More