Money Watch is your guide to questionable spending by the Wake County Board of Education. While a total 2012-13 budget of $1.4 billion seems like a lot of money, the money we are spending to educate nearly 150,000 students is far below comparable school districts. It is imperative that we keep close tabs on expenditures so the dollars spent make good sense for our community…and especially, for our children.
WCPSS’ Unprecedented Transportation Fiasco
Parents of year-round calendar students had been complaining about their school bus woes for weeks, but the start of the traditional school year brought transportation to a screeching halt. An unprecedented volume of delays, no-shows, overcrowded buses with three children per seat, drivers knowingly leaving students behind in order to make it to school on time (and not risk losing their jobs), running multiple loads on the same bus routes—all in the name of efficiency “so that we would get the money from the state next year and to save operational dollars,” according to then-Superintendent Tony Tata.
From the start, the numbers didn’t add up.
Past ridership was around 75 to 80 thousand students. So, with a two-tier system (each bus would pick up and drop off students twice each morning and afternoon), if we assume a best-case scenario with an even number of students on each tier, 40,000 students riding 880 buses would average 45.5 kids per bus.
Anyone familiar with North Carolina bus safety standards and our own Board Policy 7125 and the Rules and Procedures for implementing that policy knows that, given the projections for elementary, middle and high school students, we would exceed bus load limits.
So, it would appear that transportation is bearing the burden for other hasty, expensive decisions. Trying to save transportation dollars at the expense of instruction time, safety, and undue stress suffered by parents, students and teachers was pennywise and pound foolish.
Shouldn’t a $1.2 Million GPS System Work?
Wake County Public Schools just spent $1,200,000 on a new GPS System for all buses, which begs the question, “Why were buses lost as the new school year began?” One parent noted, “A bus went through my neighborhood yesterday [the first week of school], and the driver had a piece of paper between her hands on the steering wheel.” What happened? Was the GPS system not installed on time? Does it not work as promised? Were bus drivers given adequate training and allowed to do practice runs before the start of school, as drivers were in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County?
Girls’ and Boys’ Academy Costs Continue to Skyrocket
Single-gender academies for grades 6 – 12 were originally approved in February 2012 at a cost of $5.9 million (“capital and lease”). The budget included eight unit “modular pods” of an unspecified number to be sited on the campus of Peace University.
At the September 4, 2012 Board work session, current costs continued to climb—by more than $2 million. No longer located at Peace University, the heftier tab includes permanent renovations to the Thompson and Gov. Morehead Schools, now housing the academies.
May we remind you that the academies serve a mere 300 students? No per-pupil costs have been made public, but you can do the math. Moreover, there is considerable doubt—and a strong lack of sound data—that indicates there are educational or other benefits to single-sex education.