If Monday’s get-together of county commissioners and school board members accomplished nothing else, it at least gave a clear vision for what is necessary and could be accomplished with some creative, outside-the-box teamwork between the two groups.
We will say up front that it is refreshing to hear that the community protest over an initial proposal to close the two schools in Clarkton — Booker T. Washington and Clarkton School of Discovery — have been heard and understood. Kudos to those parents and interested educators who went toe to toe with the Board of Education over the issue … and won.
Since then, the school board has put in numerous hours looking at a wide variety of options to begin solving the dilemma of aging buildings and a budget that has been stretched so thin it often appears it has only one side.
Undoubtedly, in education, money matters. While the topic of school funding should not eclipse productive conversations about pedagogy or school culture, those conversations can’t mean much without the funding needed to implement the insights that come from them. We could greatly improve the landscape of education in Bladen County by increasing funding, and by funding each student equally.
Folks here seem to spend a ton of time arguing about education, but nobody actually likes to spend that much money on education.That might be because most see supporting education as a tax, rather than as an investment in the future.
And while financial resources for the Board of Education are strained, a big chunk of those dollars comes from the county commissioners. That means the two boards are linked arm-in-arm to a large degree in the solution of what ails Bladen County education.
It was evident from the very start that what the Board of Education was trying to feed local residents — and the county’s Board of Commissioners — about school consolidation and closings was never going to fly. In fact, those recommendations probably cost a couple of former school board members their seats in November.
But the options spelled out by Superintendent Robert Taylor to the county commissioners on Monday seem to have far more merit — at least for consideration. Even the potential funding for a set of projects that could amount to $56 million could make sense.
If there is one large fly in the ointment, however, it’s the fact that Bladen County’s school buildings will continue to get older by the day. With so many already having decades of service behind them, the crumbling and deteriorating marches on — which means the county will soon be faced with more difficult decisions.
But the trigger to start has to be pulled sooner than later.
Schools are society’s insurance policy. When we invest in education, we are investing in something greater than one subdivision or a specific side of the county; we’re investing in a fairer, freer and more functional future.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” (Benjamin Franklin)