In the North Carolina General Assembly last week committees were in full swing and some were making the news. My only committee that was meeting in Raleigh was the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform.
Representative Craig Horn was chairing this meeting. Some in Brunswick County may remember that Representative Horn is the Education Chairman who drove from his home in Union County to meet with our local officials in February to listen to their concerns about the class size bill, and explain what we were doing to address it. About a week later we met in Session and passed House Bill 90, which delayed the implementation of the class size reduction and phased it in over four years.
At this task force meeting, we were considering the funding for charter schools. We heard from six different charter schools from across the state. We heard about funds that they feel are inadequate and that are not comparable to funding for traditional public schools. Funds are different for many reasons; lack of transportation services, i.e. buses, less foodservice, too low a percentage of free and reduced lunch recipients, etc.
These presenters seemed to think it is a problem that funds flow through the local school system. I raised a question based on hearing at a previous meeting that charter school proponents didn’t think direct payments from the state were a good idea. I asked if neither method of funding flow is good, then what is a good method of getting the funds to the schools where they are needed? I didn’t get a satisfactory answer.
After returning from Raleigh Thursday night, I was able to meet Friday with another fire department about their opinion of our House Bill 445, which enabled Brunswick County to raise fire fees last year. Chief Drew of the Southport Fire Department and I had over an hour meeting, where I learned how they were using additional funds to upgrade some personnel and training. I also was interested to learn more about how they obtained the equipment and resources that they need and how the state can assist them with this.
This week will see the first meeting of the House Select Committee on School Safety. I hope to share some of the excellent methods that our Sheriff and our school system are using to keep our children safe at school. At the same time, I will be able to compare what others are doing, and how we can make security as perfect as possible. I expect legislation will come from this committee to be considered in the short session, which begins May 16th. I also expect the state to enhance and assist our local school systems and law enforcement in their efforts.