Haywood School board split on state lobbying
The Haywood County School Board was divided this week on whether to join forces with school systems around the state in a lobbying campaign to back pro-education legislation in Raleigh.
The school board ultimately voted 5-to-4 to support the political advocacy arm of the N.C School Board Association. The county will pay annual dues of $3,000 to the cause.
“Public education is under attack,” said School Board Member Lynn Milner. “We can’t deny that. Unfortunately, I feel like we need a strong advocate.”
“I will be honest with you, I have lost some sleep trying to decide what to do on this vote,” responded School Board Member Jim Francis.
Francis questioned whether it is a good use of limited school dollars during tough budget times despite the worthy goals of the political action committee.
But to School Board Member Bobby Rogers, that’s exactly why Haywood County Schools should support the lobbying effort.
“You have to look at the risks and rewards,” Rogers said. The risk is further dismantling of public schools by unfriendly legislative policies. The reward is protecting the sanctity of public schools.
“At that point, I have to support that,” he said of the lobbying expenditure.
The school board had supported the legislative lobbying initiative last year, but withdrew its support this school year. School Board Chairman Chuck Francis asked the board to revisit that decision at its meeting this week.
Only one of the nine seats on the school board flipped in the election. Republican school board member Bob Morris lost re-election in November and was replaced by Democrat Bobby Rogers, who voted for the measure, which carried by a 5-to-4 vote. Morris had voted against the measure previously.
While the Haywood County School Board isn’t always unanimous in its decisions, it’s rare for a split vote to be so close.
Those in favor were Lynn Milner, Chuck Francis, Walt Leatherwood, Bobby Rogers and Rhonda Schandevel. Those against were Steven Kirkpatrick, Jim Francis, Bobby Rogers and Larry Henson.
It’s not rare – it’s common in fact – for government bodies to pool their political clout in hopes of influencing state policies.
Towns have a lobbying arm under the League of Municipalities, counties have one through the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, and community colleges have one though the N.C. Association of Community College Trustees.
But the N.C. School Board Association has not had a political lobbying arm until two years ago. About half the counties in the state pledged monetary support for the new legislative advocacy work, but there are few from the mountains.
Transylvania, Buncombe, Asheville City Schools are the only others in the region besides Haywood.