David Morgan: The view from Stanly ó don’t balance budget on back of education
By David Morgan
For the Salisbury Post
Thoughts certainly seem to have changed on the part of the Stanly County Board of Education, the Stanly County Board of Commissioners and the North Carolina Legislature since the mid-1990s concerning public education and our school facilities.
During the mid-1990s, Stanly County commissioners funded public education and our community college with an adequate percentage of the county budget, unlike the funding today. When education needed more money for community school needs, their local expenses and the community college, the money was appropriated even if it meant a reluctant increase in the property tax rate.
In the mid-1990s ó and it seems hard to believe things have changed with all the trailers being used as classrooms ó there was a great facility need at every school in our county. Commissioners and the school board made a video documentary that was televised on the local cable channel, showing the overcrowding and needs at each of our community schools. Also, a bond referendum was put before the citizens to address the needs of each community school. That bond referendum was turned into a middle school versus K-8 school fight by some of our well-known negative thinkers in Stanly County and was defeated. A later bond referendum was passed, with several new K-8 schools constructed. It now seems that every section of the county, except the west, has moved to the middle school education concept.
Our schools continue to have facility funding needs, but continued closing of our community schools is not the answer. Hopefully, we will not continue to see the pitiful population and job growth like weíve seen in the past 10 years in Stanly County. If growth is our goal for this county, then these classrooms and community schools will be needed even more. We simply canít let our elected county and state leaders continue to balance their budgets on the back of public education. These officials need to give up their pet projects and political tangents before they even think of not adequately funding public education.
Much-needed economic growth will never come to Stanly County when prospects see that we have closed and boarded up community schools. You may think public education is not important to a countyís economic health, but the families of business and industry donít relocate to a county that does not offer excellent public education. It takes good teachers and proper facilities to make that offering, which means it takes adequate funding by the county commissioners and state legislature.
Last year, it was New London Choice Middle School that was closed. This year, there are even more community schools on the list to consider closing because of local and state funding. If the Board of Education needs to relocate its central administration, then consider what you can do with the former central school building that sits empty with a ěfor saleî sign. But most of all, leave West Albemarle and the rest of our community schools alone both now and in the future.
Morgan served on the Stanly County Board of Commissioners during the merger of Albemarle city and Stanly County school systems.