Early education is experience-driven. The newborn cries for a ration of food, to report sickness, or just for attention. The child learns to talk by imitating those around him. Society with all its wisdom will now provide a path to formal education for the youngster.
Thoughtful, protective parents examine the merits of education outside the home, weigh the available options, and make a choice on behalf of their child that they deem best for the family. Careful parents may make a relocation decision with heavy input from the effectiveness of available school systems.
New school buildings require significant up-front investment. They have a structural useful life that may exceed 50 years. They are built with borrowed money and require regular capital upgrades to stay abreast of technological changes.
Population demographics are continually changing and may lead to overcrowding in one location and render another building underutilized. Education leaders have many balls in the air during their decision-making about limited resource allocation.
Unlike other aspects of modern governing, education has remained primarily the responsibility of the state and its subdivisions. North Carolina’s legal organization, including our state constitution, establishes the top authority for most of the functions of public schooling in the Department of Education. State funding is flat-rated and determined by the North Carolina General Assembly, using complex formulas based on actual attendance statistics.
Local governments have a legal charge to fund teaching operations as the money exceeds the state allocation — and also to provide for capital investments that include school buildings. Complicating the matter is that both the local school board and county commissioners are elected bodies with separate duties, and serious disputes are settled by legal action in the courts. There are only losers on both sides when legal action is a final remedy.
It is in the best interest of Moore County residents to maintain technically advanced, highly efficient schools that will be a major plus when our area is being evaluated by a potential new resident. Good schools support stable property values. Rising levels of home valuation deliver reliable tax revenue to local governments.
The schools are computing their 10-year school capacity needs and have engaged the general public in the planning process. There are several strategies to deal with anticipated growth and some basic choices that must be made before a financing plan is reduced to paper. Rapidly changing digital technology will impact the final choices.
Before the first shovel goes into the ground, contingency strategies relating to technological advances, demographic shifts, legislative demands and other unforeseen events need to be taken into account. The educators are looking beyond the students’ projected graduation and attempting to predict and quantify the evolving job market, not only for Moore County but also nationally.
Safe schools, up-to-date technology, enlightened teaching methods, classroom capacities, performance analysis and an optimistic attitude among our young are only some of the goals of a “with it” school board. The proper allocation between effective staffing and ongoing needs for bricks and mortar, digital devices and teaching software is critical and should rely primarily on enlightened input from education professionals.
The commissioners are charged with funding the schools. It is a process they repeat every year, and they are required by law to prepare a balanced budget for all county functions. Every county department has to focus on efficiency.
At this point in the process, the Moore County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education are functioning with a mutual respect for primary goals on each side. Perhaps that is because the difficult choices are still under discussion and not reduced to time and dollars.
The commissioners must examine past practices of short funding for capital projects, look at 50-year-old school buildings, remind themselves of the consequence of building a jail with half the recommended capacity two decades ago, and decide to do what it takes to provide for local economic growth.
Many fine economic development projects are in the pipeline, and the U.S. Open events are only months away. Time to get “with it.”