by Anna Manning
JLF’s Terry Stoops writes for News & Record that plans laid out by Congress fail to find long term solutions to school facilities needs:
Both plans fail to articulate a long-term plan for addressing our needs.
They would give the state an even larger role in financing school facilities. For decades, school facilities had been the statutory responsibility of localities. Further centralizing control of the distribution of capital funds at the state level would subject distribution to the whims of politicians and special interest groups.
Moreover, our state needs to think about ways to renovate and build schools in response to enrollment and demographic changes. Enrollment is dropping in most school districts, so any infusion of funds must require districts to streamline operations through school mergers and closures. On the other hand, charter school enrollment is booming. It may be time to consider including charters, which currently do not receive capital funding from counties or the state, in the conversation.
Finally, North Carolina school districts will not address school facility needs unless they work closely with the private sector to explore new ways of financing and building schools.
Given the tremendous demands on limited state and local taxpayer dollars, school districts may need to make public-private partnerships the rule, rather than the exception.
I commend Dr. Contreras, Rep. Foxx and the Committee on Education and Labor for highlighting a problem that has been overshadowed by countless other education policy concerns.
The challenge is to keep the conversation going and to find long-term solutions to a long-neglected problem.
Read more here, including a description of the plans from the Committee on Education and Labor.