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Letter to the Editor: ‘Penny Wise, Pound Foolish’

Contributing Writer

Some of our elected officials on the County Commission are currently pushing a proposal to make our county School Board partisan. Those promoting this plan are Republicans. Turning ALL elections partisan is currently a stated goal of the NC GOP.

Those commissioners promoting this proposal claim their intention is to help voters know “who they are voting for.” Since many Republicans in Craven County prefer to do straight-ticket voting, I’m guessing this stated intention is shorthand for supporting easy, straight-ticket voting for loyal Republican voters.

My mom used to say “penny wise, pound foolish” when I had a bright idea that was probably going to work well only in the short run.  If the unspoken intention of the Commissioners is to do a power grab, then they may have a winner—in the short run.  If the intention is to ensure strong Republican control over the membership of the School Board, they may succeed—in the short run.  If they want to solidify control over such issues as funding and curriculum decisions, they may have a good plan—in the short run.

In the long run, however, people do not appreciate the idea of taxation without representation.  In fact, that is a time-honored American principle.  The proposed plan is likely to significantly narrow the makeup of the School Board and exclude many groups, including people of color.

Those on such a new School Board are likely to be white Republicans.  If this plan passes, the local GOP Party will control most, maybe all, seats on the School Board. Craven County will lose a large pool of potential talented servant leaders!   The requirements for Unaffiliated voters to file for running are more stringent, so Unaffiliated voters will probably be less likely to run for office.  Anyone with a federal job will be barred from running—and we have LOTS of federal employees in our community.   Others with relevant skills will be discouraged, if not prohibited, by their employers from running for a partisan office.

As of March 2021, 37.2% of registered voters in our county are Republicans.  30% of registered voters are Democrats.  The huge block of Unaffiliated voters frequently is turned off by partisan causes, and realistically is unlikely to vote in big numbers in contests for the School Board.  So a clear minority of voters—37.2%–will tighten their hold on funding and policy for public education.

In the long run, citizens in Craven County will not accept having their right to participate in governance taken away.  In the long run, folks in Craven County will prefer to have leaders who focus first on community needs, rather than a partisan mandate coming from the state.  In the long run, this plan to make the School Board partisan will be seen as short-sighted.

Working together on behalf of our children should be a cause around which we can all rally.  I encourage our Commissioners to do so.

Helen Robinson, New Bern