Publisher's note: This post, by Bob Luebke, was originally published in the school spending section of Civitas's online edition.
Did anyone else see that it's not just Republicans who are questioning how Wake County Public Schools (WCPSS) spends its money
At Monday night's meeting of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, the majority of the all-Democratic Wake County Board of Commissioners was unwilling to significantly increase its funds above its stated $16 million increase for WCPSS. That falls far short of the $45.2 million increase requested by WCPSS. WCPSS said it needed additional funds to hire more school counselors, social workers, increase pay for bus drivers and offer new magnet school themes.
Several Commissioners balked at the request. They didn't like that WCPSS is sitting on $21 million in reserves. More importantly, they questioned how WCPSS is spending money.
Commissioner Erv Portman told the Raleign News & Observer: "There is a pattern that needs to be addressed. . . This pattern is the funding requested is not spent. And the funding that is not spent is not going to teacher pay. It is not going to supplies. It is not going to the things we all want."
Another Wake County Commissioner, John Burns told the N&O he won't vote to raise taxes unless he can tell taxpayers where the money is going. He said he is not able to completely answer that question.
Christine Kushner, Vice Chairwoman of the Wake County Board of Education sought to respond to the objections. She said the board is unwilling to spend leftover local funds because the money is nonrecurring. Kushner also said the board is so saving funds because of potential changes with state or federal funding.
Commissioner Portman, thinks that's a problem. He thinks WCPSS doesn't need to have reserves on top of the county's reserves. Ensuring the adequacy of resources is the responsibility of the Commissioners - not the school board.
I couldn't agree more.
The county's job is to provide the funds; WCPSS administers the schools.
WCPSS should also be able to account how funds are spent. If they can't, why should funding be increased?
It appears the whole session was too much for Yeovonne Brannon, chairwoman of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, who equated the Commissioners questioning with bullying.
Schools should be expected to use funds as stated and should be able to answer questions on how funds are spent. Evidently that's too high a bar for Brannon and the Great Schools in Wake Coalition.
Since 2014, Democrats have increased local funding for WCPSS by $67 million.
The issue should be decided next Monday when Wake County Commissioners will vote on a new budget.