What if the ceiling in your office leaked every time it rained, leaving your papers and books almost always slightly damp?
What if you had to evacuate your office in the middle of the work day because the HVAC unit on the roof above you caught fire on occasion?
What if, when the HVAC wasn't on fire, it simply didn't work sometimes, leaving you sweating in the summer and freezing in the winter without notice?
What if you had to squeeze in an extra five coworkers into your cubicle? Or what if you didn't even have your own desk, but instead just traveled around your office to whatever space was available at that moment?
Now imagine that your job is going to school -- as a student or a teacher -- under those conditions every day. And for some in Wake County's public schools, they don't have to imagine it because they're living it. That's not what I want for my kids or for the rest of the children and educators in Wake County.
Next Tuesday, October 8, Wake County votes can say "YES" to an $810 million bond issue that would allow the county to borrow money to pay for school construction, renovations and technology.
Here are the facts:
- The plan was proposed by the county board of education and approved by the county commissioners -- it may be one of the few things that the two boards agree on.
- Bonds are the smartest way to pay for construction and renovations, in the same way that most families use a mortgage to pay for their homes. Wake County has a triple-A bond rating from all three national rating agencies -- the highest possible rating -- which allows the county to get the best interest rates.
- A little more than half of Wake’s 170 schools would share in $244.9 million for renovations. That includes six schools getting major renovations and 79 schools getting small amounts to replace aging equipment, such as work on HVAC systems, electrical systems and roofing. Thousands of children are spending their days in these buildings -- they deserve a space that allows them to succeed at their job as students.
- One of the schools slated for major renovations is Green Elementary, where the media center roof leaked and the HVAC caught on fire when Junius was in first grade. Again, they're not talking about putting in marble floors in the gym and a chocolate fountain in the cafeteria -- it's about creating a safe and productive learning environment for children.
- The $810 million bond issue would cover most of a $939.9 million school construction program. Of that, $533.75 million would pay for 16 new schools to help keep up with enrollment projections.
- Wake County grows by an average of 64 people each day (that's about three kindergarten classrooms) -- the recession slowed growth some in recent years, but it hasn't stopped people from coming to the area. The county expects to pass the 1 million mark in just two years.
- Wake is already the 16th largest school district in the nation with more than 150,000 students. More than 20,000 new students are expected by 2018; more than 30,000 by 2020. Since our last bond in 2006, Wake County has added more than 170,000 people -- and they are still coming.
- To accommodate this growth, the proposed building program includes 11 new elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools to be built in the next five years.
- Charter and private schools can accommodate only a small portion of the student population, even with the recent growth in charter options.
- Even if you don't have students in Wake's public schools, living in a high quality district benefits your quality of life -- from the resale value of your home to the caliber of graduates living in your community.
- The bond would result in an increase in county property taxes; the owner of a home assessed for taxes at $263,500 (the average value of a Wake County home) would pay an additional $11.52 per month. That seems a small price to pay for schools that work.
- Voting against the bond doesn't mean that there will be more money for other things, like teacher salaries or special programs. School construction and teacher pay (as strange as it may sound) aren't connected and don't come from the same place. Bond money can only be used for capital expenses, meaning school construction, renovation and technology. Paying for those capital costs without the bond will either end up costing more or force the district to cancel some of the plans -- or both.
Mark your calendar, set a reminder on your phone or put a post-it note in your car -- but just don't forget to vote on Tuesday. There are at least 153,152 reasons to vote yes, with more on the way.