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Boom and bus 

Now that Wake County schools have announced their reassignment plan, the largest in the system's history, prepare to hear plenty of complaints directed at the school board and its handling of the unchecked growth of the county's school population.

Parents will line up and weigh in on why their kids shouldn't move, how the system doesn't make sense, and how "busing" kids around to achieve some kind of balance in the schools hurts neighborhoods.

Once again, though, the blame is misplaced, as is often the case in North Carolina, where school boards generally have zero say over the growth of their districts. They have to rely on county commissioners--and ultimately the voters--for their operating and construction funds.

If parents really want to get to the bottom of why so many of their kids have to play vagabond every other year or so, they ought to turn their attention to planning boards and the elected officials who set the zoning rules and approve the developments that are packing the schools with fresh youngsters. They then need to turn to county commissioners who aren't willing to ask for bond issues big enough to pay for all the schools needed to accommodate the growth their boards have approved.

The fact is, most of the students being reassigned are going to seven new schools and many others will be going to school closer to home than they were before. But the new reliance on year-round schools and modules is the result of school construction that isn't keeping pace with the population.

Growth, especially in Wake, is a juggernaut not easily deterred. It can, however, be channeled in ways that have less impact on the schools. You've heard it from us before--less sprawl, compact development, getting developers to provide land for schools, and a wider mix of housing types and costs in exchange for zoning approvals. Until then, Wake is doomed to repeat the cycle of boom and bus.

***

We're lucky to have an editorial cartoonist as clever and talented as V. Cullum Rogers. But daily newspaper chains are rapidly deciding that editorial cartoonists are a luxury ripe for cost-cutting. Cullum's cartoon this week is one that was done for "Black Ink Monday," which was organized on Dec. 12 by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists to protest the gradual disappearance of full-time editorial cartoon jobs at American newspapers in general, and specifically to protest the (apparent) plan by the Tribune Company to eliminate editorial cartoon positions at its papers as soon as possible. You can see a collection of over 100 of the cartoons (including Cullum's) at editorialcartoonists.com.

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