The AAUW Brevard branch’s public policy committee has prepared the following statement on Senate Bill 236, Counties Responsible for School Construction.

S 236 would allow county commissions to “assume responsibility for construction, improvement, ownership and acquisition of public school property” by a simple resolution of the County Commissioners.

This bill would marginalize local boards of education. It blurs the lines of authority for decisions that directly affect the delivery of quality education to our children and the responsibility for the maintenance and use of the school facilities. It moves from the school board focus on maximizing resource use for the regular public schools to a county focus on county needs and potentially on charter schools.

This bill, along with the removal of caps for charter schools which is already law, and with S 337 to create an independent charter school board ( S 337 The Charter Board shall be located administratively within the Department of Public Instruction but shall exercise its powers and duties independently of the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction…) will remove more resources from the regular public school system, in effect creating two parallel systems.

While the bill, introduced by Wake County Senator Hunt, stems from a long conflict between the Wake County commissioners and school board, it would apply to all of the 115 school districts across the state.

Charles Coe, professor in public administration at NC State, believes the proposed action is “indeed uncommon and unprecedented.” Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Burke, Robeson, Forsyth and Davie County Boards of Education are among 40 school districts opposing S 236 as of March 24.

Grady Hunt, attorney for the Robeson county public school board, noted that the “powers of school system control and supervision are statutorily vested in local boards of education. Property ownership is a fundamental element of control and supervisory powers. … Transferring basic powers of school property to county commissions would obscure the lines of authority between local boards of education and county commissions. Where lines of authority are dulled, accountability to the public decreases.”

Contact your representative and senator to ask about the impacts of this proposed legislation. The bill has been in committee for two weeks. We can still have an effect.