Thanks to former Wake County school board member Tom Oxholm for encouraging legislators to allocate more money for students in Wake County and across the state in his June 13 Point of View article "School funding: one way out." It’s frustrating that school boards must turn to county commissioners to fund vital programs unpaid for by state funds.
However, I disagree with Oxholm’s remedy of granting school boards local taxing authority. Though this would help some counties in the short term, in the long run it will only exacerbate the divide between rich and poor counties. The more we rely on the local property tax base to fund schools, the harder it will be for low-wealth counties to offer their students the "sound basic education" that the state Supreme Court ruled in the Leandro case is the right of every child in North Carolina.
I suggest we come together — school board members, local and state lawmakers — and craft a solution whereby the state provides enough funding for every student to receive equal educational opportunities. It’s not fair that children living in high-wealth counties get better educations than children in poorer counties. No one should have to move to get a better public education.
It’s time to stop relying on local property taxes to support schools and instead look at other revenues (perhaps sales or income taxes) to fund education. Let’s think of education as an investment; let’s spread the burden (funding) and share the benefits (well-educated citizens, workers) statewide.
(The writer is a member of the Orange County School Board and co-chair of N.C. CARE — North Carolina Community Advocates for Revitalizing Education)
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