Bonds pass in Durham, Charlotte

The big election stories from yesterday that were education-related were two school bonds that passed muster with voters in Durham and Charlotte.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. First, in Durham, courtesy of today’s News & Observer:

The big item was the $194.2 million bond measure for Durham Public Schools, which passed by a margin of more than 3-to-1. The landslide had school officials sipping sparkling cider in celebration.

The price tag was high compared with past years — in 2003, voters approved $105 million for schools — and surveys over the summer had showed support under 50 percent.

Luis Olivieri, 43, a voter from the Parkwood neighborhood, was among about 8,000 who voted against the school bonds. He said he thinks parents need to find resources for their individual schools, rather than asking taxpayers to support a large-scale, countywide campaign.

“It’s about time for families to give something back to the schools,” he said.

But naysayers had little impact on the overall outcome, an approval of about 77 percent.

A marketing campaign and other well-placed endorsements apparently helped garner such returns, said Steve Schewel, vice chairman of the school board.

“We had the strong support of all of Durham’s important political action groups,” Schewel said. Next, in Charlotte, where voters there overwhelmingly passed a half-a-billion dollar school bond, in a rousing support for Supt. Dr. Peter Gorman.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s Charlotte Observer:

The results give Superintendent Peter Gorman a key victory and mark a sharp turnaround from 2005. That’s when suburban parents pushed to secede from CMS, a high-profile task force recommended major school reforms, and voters handed CMS its worst-ever bond loss.

“Whether we like it or not, the defeat of ’05 was hanging over our heads,” Gorman said Tuesday night. “This is just such a positive move forward.”

Increased support was evident countywide — in urban and suburban precincts, and areas in between.

Three voting places — Myers Park High, Calvary Baptist Church in west Charlotte, and Elizabeth Lane Elementary off Pineville-Matthews Road — illustrate the point.

In 2005, a majority of voters at each spot said “no.” Tuesday, their soaring endorsements ranged from 60 to 79 percent.

Only two of 195 county precincts opposed the bonds. But even there — off Sam Wilson and Little Rock roads — at least 48 percent said yes.

Despite the victory, CMS won’t be free from construction debates. Gorman and other school leaders are asking county commissioners to step up their borrowing to build and repair schools quickly. That would increase the odds of a tax increase to repay the debt.

And while Tuesday’s package will build 12 schools, expand three more and renovate 12 others, it won’t eliminate the more than 1,200 mobile classrooms now in use. Nor will it accommodate the 50,000 new students expected to enroll within the next decade.

Another bond campaign is likely in 2009.

If this is not a cry to change the funding formula for our schools, I don’t know what is. But even more interesting is this paragraph in the Observer story:

As in 2005, many viewed the election as a referendum on the direction of CMS. The school system pushed hard to get more parents, employees and likely supporters to the polls. But many taxpayers who opposed the 2005 bond request, such as Sandy Loydpierson, simply had a change of heart.

Loydpierson, 43, a psychotherapist who lives in Plaza-Midwood, said she went with the bonds this time because the school board has been better behaved and Gorman has been more accessible than his predecessors.

This will be the defining pillar of next year’s GCS bond, it will be a referendum on GCS and GCS alone, and the fact that our bond issue will share primary election ballot space with candidates who have a different view of how our schools should be run will be a testament in and of itself.

I can’t wait.

E.C.  🙂


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