This falls in the category of "not news," I suppose. The Wake County Board of Education is not fighting with the Wake County Board of Commissioners.
I know. This isn't normal. Normally, these boards push and pull like whiny kids and their parents—the school board wants a bigger budget, the commissioners cut it.
But these are not normal times for Wake, an urban county fighting for its quality of life against a rural-dominated General Assembly. And the central battlefield is public education. Wake prides itself on its public schools. At the General Assembly, at least for the current crop of Republicans in charge, hostility to public schools is fierce.
Against this backdrop, Wake school board members and commissioners have been plotting together of late in a church basement in Raleigh at forums organized by WakeUP Wake County, a civic group. The forums were open to the public. I attended two of the three, including the wrap-up session last Monday.
I don't think I'm exaggerating the significance of these discussions by calling them remarkable. They were what our elected officials should do routinely but, given the bitter partisanship of the times, don't. That is, they were trying out some bold ideas for reshaping Wake's schools and making plans to bring the public and municipal leaders into their conversations.
Contrast that with state and national politics, where no good idea goes unbashed—and few are even offered.
Indeed, Raleigh's Tom Bradshaw remembers similarly gutsy talks in the early 1970s, culminating in city and county leaders deciding to merge their separate, racially segregated school systems.
That farsighted, extremely controversial decision helped transform Raleigh and Cary from sleepy towns into a booming New South metro.
Bradshaw, a banker and former state transportation chief who was Raleigh's "boy mayor" from 1971–73, remains one of Wake's most respected leaders. He was proud to be in the room then, he says, and proud of what he's seeing now.