City school barely passing their own test

It seems that students, parents, and even the staff in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System are less satisfied than they were 5 years ago. I can think of a lot of reasons why, but I'm wondering, what's the prescription to make it better (short of massively funding programs that benefit all the squeaky wheels).

School staff members, parents and students from the fourth to the 12th grade responded to the poll, rating issues on a 10-point scale. According to the report, which will be presented to the school board at its meeting Thursday night, there were a few areas with particularly low ratings this year: Secondary students gave their lowest-ever rating for principals and teachers, and other staff gave their lowest -ever rating for the superintendent and for involvement/decision making -- 6.3.
[...]
The district did have its highest-ever scores in some areas this year, including secondary students' rating of quality of teaching and parents' rating of computer technology.

Villwock said sometime this summer she'll work with the district Webmaster to get the electronic version of each school's poll results on the district's Web site.
- heraldsun.com: Schools family happiness decreases, 6/16/07

I look forward to getting more information about the survey results.

Issues: 

Total votes: 50

Comments

"(short of massively funding programs that benefit all the squeaky wheels)."

Care to itemize what you mean? We are struggling at this time to get the tax adjustment we need to MAINTAIN current programs. I don't know the latest on the property tax issue, but I hope the Orange County Board has eased up on their perceived anti-tax fervor?

What is the meaning of students simultaneously giving principals and teachers their lowest ever rating and also giving quality of teaching the highest-ever scores?

Could this survey have been as inaccurate as SAT scores in terms of predicting future success?

"Could this survey have been as inaccurate as SAT scores in terms of predicting future success?"

Kind of depends on your definition of success. I think SAT's are the best screening method available, but that lots of successful people follow unusual career paths.

Check out this documented refutation of the conventional SAT wisdom:

http://www.bates.edu/ip-optional-testing-20years.xml

Tom, the BOCC is in a tough position and are trying to respond within a context of nearly two decades of tax increases - I wouldn't characterize that as "anti-tax fervor".

There's a tipping point, which we might've already reached in Chapel Hill, where the tax burden distorts the historical makeup of our community.

In Chapel Hill, Council still treats our citizens like a flock of golden geese, ready to produce tax revenues with a bit of a squeeze. Longer term residents are now having to decide to move from their homes of many years not because they want to but because the carrying costs of our community has overwhelmed their pocket-book. I used to call this creating a gateless gated community - an affluent only Chapel Hill peopled by professionals, wealthy retirees, two income families - folks that can afford the ticket to ride. Forget about affordable living for those who work within our community.

I think the BOCC is recognizing that Orange County needs to make some substantive changes in fiscal and tax policy if we're to sustain a diverse community - to make sure Orange County doesn't end up some kind of freakish Governor's Club for those with plenty of cash.

Citizen Will:

Fiscal conservatism is often a worthy character trait, but I think you don't realize how far NC is below national norms in per student expenditures. I also think you need to understand that the real rate of inflation has been pretty high this past year, across the board. You are paying more for gas; the school lawnmowers are as well.

Tom, maybe it's time to let some goats and cows roam on the playing fields to keep the grass short ;-)

"Tom, maybe it's time to let some goats and cows roam on the playing fields to keep the grass short "

I like the idea, but the $200 sneaker kids probably won't.

Speaking of keeping the grass short, does anyone know if the decision NOT to use a Field Turf surface on the new competition field at Carrboro High School was strictly based on the "we've run out of money" logic that usually throws landscaping down the toilet in the construction process?

If so, the CHCCS and the BOCC are being incredibly shortsighted, IMO. The Field Turf field pays for itself in a little under seven years now. They should be required at every middle and high school, and used for at least half the fields in an active park.

I'm pretty sure that economists believe each new single-family residence costs a community more than it could pay back, even at tax rates twice those currently being assessed. (FWIW, we paid almost the same annual tax in CT for a house 1/3rd the value of our current home here in NC, and that includes the special schools levy.) As long as the BOCC and the planning board continue to approve new subdivisions, the only way Orange County will resolve the schools-funding crisis is through new commercial and business-tax growth, alternate methods of taxing property (the land-transfer tax, which we were shocked not to pay here), and maybe higher fees in other areas.

Don't Orange County residents have to tackle head-on the fact that, as the Triangle grows and grows (NC is predicted to be one of the fastest-growing states for the foreseeable future), there will be more and more tension between Yankees and Westerners used to higher property taxes, and native North Carolinians who not only are used to the South'd century-long history of lower public spending but are also likely to have lower household incomes? Not to mention the explosive growth of the Latino population?

The issues directly confronting the schools this year are that (a) the State has more or less mandated 5% teacher salary increases [unless we think it's equitable or even feasible to set up a two-tier wage system] and (b) Chapel Hill-Carrboro is set to open another new school, one which -- by the way -- any fool with a calculator could have told this community is only 50% as big as it's going to need to be to address the continued population growth around here. The only way to hold the line on taxes given those realities is to cut funding -- and there's a lot of muttering in the community that those cuts are all just frills, but most Chapel Hill-Carrboro parents see their kids' educations in a national context, and either have direct experience paying higher taxes elsewhere or professional contacts with folks whose kids attend better-funded "frillier" schools elsewhere, and see those "frills" as competitive necessities.

At the very least, there needs to be open debate about what holding taxes steady means this year, given Elementary School #10 NEXT year, and the prediction of at least three new schools (elementary and middle) -- not to mention the already-anticipated doubling of Carrboro High's capacity -- in the next decade.

If you're an Orange County resident on a fixed income, you don't need one year of tax relief, you need a tax-system overhaul. And if you're an Orange-county parent, you can't imagine that the increased costs are going to stop, or the budget-battles are going to get easier.

And, of course, if we did declare a property-building moratorium, to eliminate all future growth in student expenditures, that would drive Orange County property values even higher (no more supply, Triangle-wide demand pressure going ever higher) and STILL harm fixed-income residents.

My point is: this is a huge structural bog. It's only going to get worse. If the BOCC wants parents and students to bear the cost burden of that structural bog through a series of (one has to assume) long-term tax freezes -- if the BOCC thinks the schools are spending too much on frills and should be cutting those programs to pay for the necessities -- they should say so directly. Or they should say that they think merger might be the best way to achieve cost-efficiencies without cutting programs. Then we'll all know how to cast our votes.

After all, some of us have direct experience from California, which took a #1-ranked school system and threw it down the drain in the name of no-new-property-taxes (Proposition 13), and is paying the costs now.

CONNECTICUT
Income tax rate: 3.0-5.0
Tax brackets: 2 $10,000,$10,000
Personal exemption: $12,750
Married exemption: $24,500

NORTH CAROLINA
Income tax rate: 6.0-8.0
Tax brackets: 4 $12,750 - $120,000
Personal exemption: $3,400
Married exemption: $6,800
Child: $3,400

NC also adds income back in from your federal deductions in order to determine your tax bracket.

Another aspect is that a significant part of our population is transient - graduate school, RTP, etc. A lot of these people lobby for higher taxes for their kids schools knowing that they will be gone in a few years.

It's a big mess, I'll agree. But I think maybe it's time for us to stop being such a residential-heavy county. Think if New Hope Commons had been on the Orange County side of the interstate as originally planned. The Home Depot or whatever that was planned to go in just across the line in Chatham is another example. Those are some monster tax dollars that go to other counties and the developments still end up in the general vicinity.

I'm sure it's not a complete solution, especially when other county services outside of schools are chronically underfunded (social services comes to mind), but it's a start.

Another thought is that maybe there should be a small additional flat tax for folks with kids? Seems drastic, but we're already getting toward the top of the tax rates in the state without even adding in the municipal taxes (Carrboro had -- maybe still does -- the highest municipal tax rate in the state a couple years ago).

Another thought is that maybe there should be a small additional flat tax for folks with kids?

That goes against the constitution of our state, which says that we are to provide free public education. You are paying back the free public education that was available to you when you were a child.

CitizenWill,

I agree that income tax rates deserve attention. In fact, the overall status of taxation and public funding, and the crisis of school funding in particular, rests on the question of taxation in every arena.

Nevertheless, during debates about property tax increases, most new residents bring to the table an experience of paying much lower tax bills elsewhere. They are not easily swayed by the frame of "we have to keep these too-high taxes low." Even if they should be.

According to a 1998-99 DoE report -- online at http://tinyurl.com/36hkcg -- CT schools received 53% of their funding from property taxes, 42% from state revenues, and the remainder from federal and other sources. The NC report at http://tinyurl.com/2mbfdb indicated that in 1996-1997, 69% of NC school expenditures came from state sources, 23.4% from local funds, and the remainder from federal and local sources. Unfortunately I couldn't quickly find more recent reports showing this breakdown quickly. But to continue the comparison, the 2003-2004 survey data at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006352.pdf show that schools in the 95th percentile in CT spent $14,140 per pupil while those in the 95th percentile in NC spent $8,753.

I've always found these cross-state comparisons difficult to untangle, because they don't account for differential energy and maintenance costs across regions, differential costs of living (and therefore salaries), and a host of other hard-to-compare factors (corruption and graft in the allocation of public services in CT, for example).

It's precisely this fuzziness that comes into play when people start talking about property tax rates. I daresay most people aren't aware of their W2 withholdings in the same sort of comparative way, thanks to the complicated income tax code and the incremental nature of its payment. (Of course the government counts on that.)

No matter what, there is a clear and pressing need for more progressive taxation and tax relief for poor and working-class residents in Orange County, especially farmers and folks on fixed incomes.

FWIW, three of my cousins are schoolteachers who explicitly went back to school to get their teaching certificates so their husbands could afford to keep the family farms. (And of course the husbands have to work second, salaried-jobs, too.) So when I think about school budgets in rural settings, I'm thinking about a complicated web of monies.

ark,

I think your point about transcience gets back to my point about the rift between long-term residents and newcomers. I don't know how many RTPers expect to stay here long-term and are thwarted, or how many of them just plan to exploit the local taxpayers and leave. Most folks I know go where the jobs are. Long-term, demographers tell us that NC is going to be one of the top-ten growth states, and top-twenty population states, in the country.

We have a significant population who can't afford to pay more in taxes, schools that will have to cut existing programs to open new schools, and a BOCC who haven't (so far as I've seen in the last three years) addressed the funding issues related to continued population growth head-on. At least not during budget season, when people are paying the most attention. A property-transfer tax is a good first step. But long-term, either Orange County is going to have to rein in residential growth, or it's going to have to increase the business-commerical tax base, or it's going to have to convince the folks in Raleigh to change the schools-funding structure (not likely given how high a percentage the state already provides), or it's going to have to come up with some other solution. Because schools are at least 50% of the county budget, a huge chunk of future population growth in the western triangle is going to be around Hillsborough, lots of that growth is going to be high-cost housing for high-income people (because demand for housing here is high but supply is low, as a result of the anti-sprawl rules), and these problems are only going to get more heated and troubling in the next decade or two.

Chris,

We've obviously struggling in Orange County between the idea that schools are a private good for families and a public good for society. I would say that, during budget season, the arguments against more school funding tip toward schools as a private good. And it's made worse here in Orange County by the perception that the schools are filled disproprotionately with newcomers who don't have the "right" sort of connections to the community.

This does not strike me as an especially progressive stance. Today's children are tomorrow's wage-earners and tax payers, not to mention voters and citizens. Demographically, it's likely that many of the newcomers will stay. Especially because so many of them are, in fact, not the children of university employees or RTP commuters but of Latino immigrants who won't have the resources to move. And of course some of those "outsider" university and RTP kids are going to be lifelong North Carolinians themselves.

If the school budgets are cut, the stereotypical wealthy Chapel Hill-Carrboro parents who are the perceived majority consumers of our "frill-filled" public schools are still going to take their kids to the science museum, have time to read to them nightly, and make sure their kids get the education they need to propser. Meanwhile, the teachers will still have to prepare their students for the EOGs, the special-needs kids will still need their legally-mandated services, the at-risk kids will still need extra academic attention, the ESL students will still need remedial and costly language instruction, and the teachers will be juggling a whole host of additional clerical and clean-up jobs because, among other things, they will have fewer aides and a smaller janitorial staff.

When people without children in their households stop thinking of their community's children as a community responsibility, and a community promise for the future, then I daresay we have a real crisis for progressives to tackle.

Of course we don't face that crisis here yet, but a use-tax for parents would be a step in that direction. If the problem in Orange County arises from demanding, wealthy outsiders, implement a high land-transfer tax to make moving here more costly, and raise the top tax bracket. Fund a greater homesteader exemption for the poor. That strikes me as a considerably more progressive route.

As a long-term resident (since 1982) who had two kids go through the CHCCS system...

I agree with Chris Cameron. No Hope Commons would have been part of OUR tax base, had it not had such vehement opposition. "The traffic! Evil Walmart!" the list went on and on...the result being that we STILL have the traffic...and NONE of the revenue. It's not a pretty development...(hence my nickname for it!) but I bet it generates a fair amount of tax revenue.

We can't have it both ways, folks.

Most of the folk I know who move in for work plan to stay. I don't think we should hold them accountable for the vagaries of the employment cycle. I'm certain they didn't think..."Hey, lets relocate to the Chapel Hill area and then get laid off/transferred six months to a year later..."

Most of the college/grad students I know don't have school-aged kids, btw. Most of them don't have children, period. The ones who do have infants and toddlers.

So Durham has the tax revenue from beautiful New Hope Commons and great schools becasue of their better perspective on commercial development?

I hope Mike Kelley or someone else with knowledge of
school budgets is reading -- here is my qustion.

My two stepsons did K-12 in the CHCCS system and received
an excellent education....thanks to everyone involved.
ySince the started school, my county property taxes have
tripled, but something qualitatively seems to have changed -- how the school money is spent.

At the dinner table, the kids would rave about the teachers.
Mr. Kiger did this in history, Miss Jones that in biology, etc.
If Freddy Kiger's and Judy Jones' salaries had tripled in the
interim, I wouldn't be writing this, but their salaries
didn't, so I am. (I know Freddy left, but my message
remains.) The most recent elementary school costs 23M
beyond its land, and
and a high school about 60M. Yet it is illuminating
to consider what the kids did NOT say.
Never did I hear them say:
"Wow, we have an awesome west facade on the building".

Though I am no expert, I am starting to sense that the
school systems are spending way too much money on stuff
that does not directly provide high-quality basic education to
the kids.

Any reactions?

My reaction is the same as when you asked this on May 20th: http://orangepolitics.org/2007/05/schools-predict-budget-slashes/#commen...

The elementary school is the same design as built for $14M five years before, which indicates that there are construction price increases which are unrelated to the design.

Your high school figure appears to be way off, based on my recollection. Also note that the high school was designed to be easily expanded, so some areas where built for future max capacity and others were built to enable expansion.

In terms of the county budget, the schools budget percentage and district tax are within a percent or so of the same level as about 20 years ago. So school costs are increasing at the same rate as other county service costs.

...so where does that leave us? The money has to come from somewhere.

Where can a person find and itemized version of school system, and also school-by-school budgets? Unless the cost of grade school education in general has gone up for *everyone*, then there's got to be something we're doing differently today than 10 years ago. And if it *was* going up for everyone, then the CHCSS and (to a lesser, but still admirable extent) county schools should still be in the same position in the pack compared to the competition.

Of course, I guess lower tax rates elsewhere and people moving here with the schools as one of the draws could be connected, in which case I dunno what the answer is.

The problem is that residential growth is a losing proposition. It costs something like $1.30 in services for every $1 in tax revenue. Without healthy business growth, then this is going to continue to worsen. That is, property taxes are going to disproportionately increase above normal inflation due to growth.

Carolina North is also going to make this worse because it is going to increase the number of households by adding 5,000 to 8,000 employees, but the employer in this case does not increase the commercial tax base (which keeps occurring to me as I read the newest Carolina North thread). It could be further worsened if the state-owned housing being proposed does not appropriately compensate the county for the property taxes which pay for schools and other services that is normally levied on the appraised value of private residential property.

I never said they had great schools...but they have lower tax rates--with higher per-pupil spending. And if their demographics mirrored CHCCS their "numbers" would probably rival/surpass ours.

But Mark--I thought you were anti SAT's/AP's as a way of judging school quality?

I never said they had great schools...In ever said they didn't. Durham DOES have have lower tax rates--with higher per-pupil spending. And if their demographics mirrored CHCCS their "numbers" would probably rival/surpass ours.

But Mark--I thought you were anti SAT's/AP's as a way of judging school quality?

Whoa...weird double post. Sorry!

And Melanie was responding to Mark M., not Mark P

In my comment to CitizenWill, I mis-spoke. People come here having had the experience of paying HIGHER taxes elsewhere. CitizenWill was pointing out that in CT, income tax rates may be lower to compensate for property taxes being higher. I'm not sure what the overall pattern is, nation-wide. CT hasn't had a state income tax that long, and while its top marginal rate is lower than in NC, it also has a much larger standard deduction.

When your population is growing, you will have to raise property tax rates to account for the problem Mark Peters has mentioned: that every new residence costs more than it pays back. Given population growth, it isn't remotely surprising that Orange County property tax rates have risen constantly for twenty years, and given current trends, there's absolutely no way to imagine that they won't need to continue to rise. Certain members of the BOCC are talking about the budget as if they can hold the line indefinitely, but unless the BOCC wants to implement yearly re-assessments (so that property tax revenues keep pace with residential-value inflation -- which would very definitely hurt low-income residents and push long-term residents off their land), or address the other structural issues at play, all that holding the budget steady this year gets us is a deferred funding crisis, or a long-term series of cutbacks in school services as programs are slashed to fund inflationary increases in costs (heating, cooling, water, salaries to some extent).

Chapel Hill High has a huge deferred-maintenance problem. Carrboro was built for an expansion it will absolutely need (presumably at much higher cost than if they had just built for future capacity in the first place). There's a predicted demand for two more elementary schools and another junior high in Chapel Hill-Carrboro alone in the next decade. There are new developments going up in the Orange County district all the time: these folks are going to need more schools, too.

Orange County seems to have decided a long time ago to let Durham and Wake Counties take all the commercial and business development, while we hold onto family farms and the "small town" feel of Chapel Hill. This is lovely for our quality of life, but rotten for our county revenue stream. And ironically, it drives up our property values, making it even harder for long-term residents to stay. There are no easy answers to this situation, and it's not a one-off problem, either. But you'd never know that, listening to the BOCC.

Jody,

Just want to point out that re-assessments don't increase revenue.

State law requires the ad valorem (base property) tax to be reset to a neutral value after re-assessments. Thus, the tax rate might be 80 cents per $100 valuation one year and reset to 60 cents in the re-assessment year at the starting point of budget negotiations. I recall that Orange County reassesses every 4 years and that NC requires at least every 8 years.

You have made some very good points in your posts.

Thanks,
Mark P

Mark P,

Ah, I didn't know that.

If the purpose is to protect fixed-income residents and owners of property on the edges of urban growth, there are other instruments more targetted toward those concerns. As it stands, this has to be one of the more foolish tax-related laws I've heard of.

Does the county typically raise the tax rate by a fair amount after reassessment, in order to capture some of the increased value? Because if not, all of the rising property values of Chapel Hill in particular, but Orange County in general, are not being progressively taxed. It's not hard to increase the homesteader exemption to account for the differentials between rural and city property, either.

One issue we haven't really addressed is that this survey of parent satisfaction presumably includes ALL the parents, many of whom are NOT wealthy newcomers. [It's true that Chapel Hill has one of the lowest populations of students receiving reduced/free lunches in the state, but it's still a substanial group (22%). In Orange County, that figure is 32%.] I would expect parental dissastifaction with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools to look like a giant U along the income axis, with disatisfaction peaking not only among demanding wealthier parents ["we want better frills!"] but also under-served, resource-poor working parents, whose kids aren't remotely well served by the district's "drive 'em hard right out of the gate" curriculum.

I can't tell you in strong enough terms how the new kindergarten and first-grade curriculums take familial resource differences and solidify them before kids even have a chance. And I would love to get some of the folks complaining about our "over-funded schools" into the classrooms for a few weeks, so they can see just what teachers and kids are expected to do in their very first years of school.

Oh, and Tom Barta, I think the kids in the fancy sneakers would LOVE to see goats and cows on the lawns. They would find that completely fascinating.

I think the latest shoe craze is the cheap sneaker, actually....

Yes - SAT's are not accurate measures. I was just taking the opportunity to highlight one of the major failings of the state-run school system as I pointed out that the survey results are contradictory. The kids gave their lowest rating to teachers and highest rating to quality of teaching. ????

On another note:
Maybe a school board member could point us to any reports on the ratio of support staff to teachers as it has grown over the years.

"Carolina North is also going to make this worse because it is going to increase the number of households by adding 5,000 to 8,000 employees, but the employer in this case does not increase the commercial tax base (which keeps occurring to me as I read the newest Carolina North thread)"

"Orange County seems to have decided a long time ago to let Durham and Wake Counties take all the commercial and business development, while we hold onto family farms and the “small town” feel of Chapel Hill."

Well, there's still time to STOP Carolina North-- re-zone the land or something so UNC can't use it. Replace Horace Williams airport with a Target.

Tax issues aside, if UNC COMMITTED to only developing 25% of the land, like they've been saying, in writing, my main objection to CN (loss of trees) would be answered. The fact that they haven't suggests a lack of sincerity.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that Carolina should stop growing. I am just pointing out the tax consequences of such growth.

It's impossible to compare local governments and their
fundings across state lines, CT vs NC for
example, for the system of local governments is set up
by the state's legislature and there are 50 different models.
Also, the four levels of governments are so financially intermingled that it is difficult to sort them out.

Tomorrow, we'll hear further from Jack Evans about
UNC's plans to pay property taxes for CN development.
If he doesn't volunteer some clarity, we'll insist on it.

In the mid 90's, we were told that upscale residential
development did indeed pay for itself -- the tax
revenue to the town (I can't speak for the county) exceeded
the cost of providing services. The break-even valuation
for homes was about 250K then. I don't know what it is
today.

About revaluations: When the county does a
revaluation, the local governments first calculate a
"revenue-neutral" tax rate, that which would
provide the previous revenue with the new (higher)
valuations. Then any tax increase is measured against
this rate, so it is possible to determine, from the
government's point of view, how large an increase is
specified across a revaluation. However, from the
homeowner's point of view, the result is mixed. For
people whose homes are inflating fast, they get a
large tax increase. Theoretically, this must mean that
some people are getting an actual tax reduction,
both in rate, and in total number of dollars paid. However
I've never met one.

Finally, about the lack of commercial properties in CH.
During my eight years on the council, about every 45 minutes, someone from
the Chamber of Commerce would lament that lack of
commercial tax base in CH. It made me think of
Mary Todd Lincoln. "Well, aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln,
how did you like the play?" Here's what I meant:
The Chamber recognized that an economic analysis
of Kannapolis that excluded Fieldcrest-Cannon Mills
would be meaningless, but they were always ready to
do this analysis of CH that excluded
UNC and UNC Health Care -- gimme a break.
We're not a commercial hub, we're a world-class center
of education and health care. What other town wouldn't
kill for a company that pays
a 1.2 billion-dollar, recession-proof, annual payroll
within walking distance of its downtown? Moreover, does
having more commercial properties guarantee a lower
property tax rate? Better schools? Just look to Durham.

Thanks Joe for jumping in on the "real" tax increase involved in reassessment. It's easy for those long term residents that have seen nothing but increases - reassessment or not.

Also, great point about UNC Hospitals pumping dollars into the local economy. As someone that's gotten a good recent take on the daily flow of visitors and workers to and from that complex, the bucks involved must be dramatic.

Finally, agree totally on Evans and the fiscal consequences of CN on our local taxpayer. There's been nothing but handwaving it seems on this fundamental.

Joe raises a great question, "What other town wouldn't kill for a company that pays a 1.2 billion-dollar, recession-proof, annual payroll within walking distance of its downtown?"

One of the problems is that, rather than walking downtown, much of this payroll drives home to Durham and Pittsboro and Burlington every night. So, not only does the community/school system get no direct tax revenue from the University, it also gets very little of the indirect tax revenue from the University's employees.

So much of the University's workforce can no longer afford to live in Chapel Hill and Carrboro that there is an ever-growing chasm between the University and the towns.

Once upon a time, people moved here to teach or work at UNC, and a side-benefit was a great public school system. Now people move here for the public school system, and the University is largely irrelevant to them, except as a scenic backdrop. At this point, the relationship between the University and the town is not so much symbiotic as it is predatory.

For a lot of very good reasons, people need to live close to where they work. When they cannot or will not do so, all sorts of problems arise, including many of the current problems with public school funding.

"One of the problems is that, rather than walking downtown, much of this payroll drives home to Durham and Pittsboro and Burlington every night."

Franklin Street has a few OK restaurants, LOTS of derelicts, LOTS of T-shirt shops, little free parking. It doesn't stack well vs nearby Weaver Street, IMHO

Downtown Franklin may not stack well next to "The Weave"--but wait until Trader Joe's opens up. Eastgate is going to be hopping...and the parking is better.

Jody said, "I can't tell you in strong enough terms how the new kindergarten and first-grade curriculums take familial resource differences and solidify them before kids even have a chance."

Can you please explain more what you mean and how this happens? Thanks.

"Downtown Franklin may not stack well next to “The Weave”–but wait until Trader Joe's opens up. Eastgate is going to be hopping…and the parking is better."

Looks like November. It will give me one LESS excuse to go to Cary, for sure!

I waited for some years to get a TJ's in Chicago, having seen them in the Bay Area. Then, I moved down here and had to wait some more!

Glad to see "the Weave's" hula hoop people and "dancing guy" are back!

"Jody said, “I can't tell you in strong enough terms how the new kindergarten and first-grade curriculums take familial resource differences and solidify them before kids even have a chance.”"

Yea--please explain. That is a curious statement.

Another self-embaressing statement from Moses Carey in the Chapel Hill News today. He said, paraphrasing, that the people who showed up at the town hall school budget meetings were not representative. 1) How would he know-- does he conduct scientific surveys? 2)The people who showed up (me included) cared enough to show up. There was nobody at the front door allowing only angry parents in. Where was his imagined constituency?

Can we hold a recall election on this guy? I recall we kicked his butt off the school board last year, but he seem to keep turning up in local politics, like a zombie in a bad horror flick.

Tom, perhaps you are thinking of Keith Cook?

Moses Carey has been a county commissioner since 1984, and he is currently chair. He has never been on the school board. He has never been kicked out of any elected office. His "imagined constituency" is woven throughout the entire county--he is normally a leading vote getter in his re-election bids.

I can't find the statement in the CHN you are referring to, but I believe the fact that a petition with over 1000 names on it was submitting in opposition to a tax increase that would fully fund the schools is pretty solid evidence in support of their claim that those who attended the budget hearings were not representative of the whole county.

BACK to the topic we are supposed to be talking about...

Until we can see more detailed data from the survey, it's ALL going to be wild speculation...

So here I go.

I can easily see how the survey would have shown
"Secondary students gave their lowest-ever rating for principals and teachers" and yet "have its highest-ever scores in some areas this year, including secondary students' rating of quality of teaching ."

My kids experienced some of the best and the worst teachers/instruction at the secondary level. So, depending on how the question was phrased and how the scoring worked, it would've been possible to get those answers from one kid.

It would also be interesting to see if there were differences in ratings between the East and CHHS. Most of the kids I know who've attended East think Thaden is pretty fair. Not the reaction I've gotten from the kids I know who attended CHHS. In any of it's principal incarnations. For most HS kids a fair principal=good principal.

"Moses Carey has been a county commissioner since 1984"

Sorry-- I think I was mixing him up partially with Foushee. I recall that Carey was also making school-hostile noises during that election, which led to my error.

FYI, the CarrboroCitizen report on the OC tax increase:

The Board of County Commissioners on Thursday voted 3-2 to approve a resolution of intent to raise the county property tax by 4.7 cents and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro special district tax by 1.5 cents in the fiscal year 2007-08 budget.

Commissioners Mike Nelson and Barry Jacobs voted against the resolution. Nelson said he was opposed to increasing school funding through the special district tax because he wanted to promote equity across the two school districts.

Our local governments have got to get their fiscal house in order.

Our political leadership has got to be clear that we can't always afford what we supposedly want.

Jody-- Proposition 13 of California gets a bad rap for California's declining schools, but actually, there was a Supreme Court case, Serrano vs. Priest, prior to that which declared that using property taxes to fund schools resulted in unconstitutional inequalities among schools and mandated that most of the school funding had to come from the state. Because of that, the state HAD to take over funding for schools and that cannot be changed unless the Supreme Court overrules that earlier case. That's why Proposition 13 was passed. It's not Proposition 13 that's the problem but the fact that the state lawmakers have not wanted to spend money on schools in proportion to what they should.

Mark Peters-- Since people are paying for education anyway through property taxes and through all the necessary school fees, there is no such thing as a "free public education" and that should be pretty obvious... That's like saying everyone is entitled to a "free public library" or a "free military" to protect us. The money comes from somewhere and that's your very own tax payment. I believe higher surcharges or taxing of those with kids could benefit the system (and would help families in the long run, because they wouldn't have to pay as high of property taxes all their life.)... or allowing donations to local schools to be taken as a tax credit off your federal income taxes, which is the subject of a bill offered in the House of Representatives by Ron Paul of Texas, but which of course will never go anywhere in Congress because it would help poor and middle-class people and not big business interests :)

"You are paying back the free public education that was available to you when you were a child."

No, my parents already paid for that long ago, since they've been paying property taxes for more than 30 years. This system rewards those with many kids over those who have one child or no children and also creates inequalities in school systems of rich districts vs. poor districts.

Joe Capowski-- excellent points, I think you're dead on. Spending more money on education doesn't mean you get a better education. Where does the money go? is the bigger question. A newer, brighter football field doesn't help with children's education. My dad was a teacher at a very small, rural school, with very small classes. The town and county were poor and the building and facilities were VERY old along with all the supplies, and the teachers made a pittance compared to richer school districts. The kids got a good education. The state shut the school down because it cost too much and moved them over to another school district, which had a shiny new school, three gyms, and other things that are not unduly necessary for a good education. This school had huge class sizes, disruptive kids, and my dad spent most of his time on discipline rather than education, which is dispiriting for teachers and leads to reduced effort by them, I'm sure, even though, for example, he made twice as much at this school as he had at the rural one. This new school's solution for improving things was to spend more money on facilities or buy new textbooks. That's not the solution at all to this problem. Spend, spend, spend doesn't mean you have better schools-- it's what you spend the money on.

Gloria,

Perhaps you should read the state constitution (excerpted below). It requires that there be no fees to students to attend public school. Tax, yes. Fees, no. If a child lives on property that pays no property tax with an unemployed adult who pays no state income tax, the child still gets to attend school free of charge.

Not only did your parents pay for your schooling, so did your whole community, as it should be. A progressive community educates its children.

I agree that the state and federal government should do more to address the inequalities. But they don't. I have and will continue to advocate that they do more.

ARTICLE IX
EDUCATION

Sec. 2. Uniform system of schools.

(1) General and uniform system: term. The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.

(2) Local responsibility. The General Assembly may assign to units of local government such responsibility for the financial support of the free public schools as it may deem appropriate. The governing boards of units of local government with financial responsibility for public education may use local revenues to add to or supplement any public school or post-secondary school program.

I remember a lecture by Don Rimer, who was (he's probably
retired now) the school-finance expert with the Institute
of Government. Here's what I recollect:

A hundred years ago, the cost of building a school was minimal.
Local materials were used, local labor was cheap and
sometimes free, and
the buildings were simple. There was a standard-form
building, four classrooms surrounding a utility core.
Then after WWII, the school shape that we still all recognize
came into vogue, the long, one classroom-after-another shape,
built of brick, with a long horizontal row of casement windows.
Because the construction costs were low and because
the local systems could take advantage of local materials
and labor, the legislature
decreed that the local school systems would build the buildings and the state would provide operating expenses.
Today however,
the buildings and their furnishings are complex,
expensive, and built by large contractors with national
materials. Unfortunately, the economic model has
not changed to meet today's reality.
Mark is right that the higher government levels need to
get more involved in the school construction process.
Here our problem is exacerbated by the fact that there
are very few contractors available to build a school,
partially due to the massive construction effort by
UNC that has saturated many of the contractors. Hence, with
little competition, the contractors can bid high prices.

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