by Dr. Robert Luebke
Senior Fellow, Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
If all goes as planned, Wake County voters will be asked to approve a nearly $900 million bond referendum this November. Most of the bond ($530.7 million) will provide funds to help meet the capital needs of the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS). The remainder ($353.2 million) is targeted for similar needs for Wake Tech Community College.
Various news reports on the topic faithfully rattle off how Wake County voters have failed to approve a school bond only once, 1999. And, since then voters have approved more than $3.2 billion in bonds.
Will they again? Who knows? There’s much to consider.
$900 million is a lot of money. It’s a lot of money for a school system that lost over 3,000 students in 2020-21 and is not expected to exceed the pre-pandemic enrollment high (2019) until 2030.
It’s a lot of money for a district whose enrollment forecast for the next ten years is dominated by red numbers – signifying declining enrollments – at nearly every grade level.
It’s a lot of money to pay for eight major school renovations and the construction of four new schools – including one high school — for a district, whose projected enrollment growth over the next decade is expected to average less than one half of one percent (.39) annually.
And, it’s a lot of money for a district whose enrollment in grades 9 through 12 is expected to decline by 721 students over the next decade.
Do Wake County taxpayers want to pay close to $900 million for renovations and new schools?
We’ll find out in November.