CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools face another tough budget cycle for this year and the next, due in part to cuts in funding from the General Assembly. That’s why Board of Education is thinking carefully about contributing $5,000 to a new organization formed by the state School Boards Association, whose agenda some have said could be too political.
At last week’s Board of Education meeting, member Mike Kelley was the first to speak up, in opposition of giving money to the newly-formed N.C. School Boards Association’s Action Center. It was formed as a way to strengthen the local school board’s advocacy efforts.
In a memo to the CHCCS, reps of the Action Center explained that public education and local school board authority was under attack. The memo also clarified that the Action Center will not endorse political candidates or establish a political action committee.
James Barrett said that he didn’t see a problem with more efforts to advocate for education.
“It’s the same work and the same lobbying that we already support with our money,” Barrett said.
The School Boards Association is a 501(c)(3) organization which has limited funds that it can invest “advocacy and grassroots engagement.” The new Action Center was created as a 501(c)(4) and will be able to “generate additional resources for expanded advocacy efforts.”
Kelley said that he agreed with the ideas behind the group, but said it was ultimately the wrong way to use public money to support political agendas.
“We belong to the School Board Association for a variety of reasons, one of which is to have communications with the Legislature,” Kelley said. “I think that is a reasonable thing to do, but to turn into another direction. It has a political agenda.”
Jamezetta Bedford, Vice-Chair of the CHCCS Board, said that she believed there is no harm in using public dollars for the public purpose of advocating for public education.
“I am a politician. It is my job as a school board member to advocate for children just like PTA’s advocate for children,” Bedford said.
Bedford said that she wanted more clarification concerning the Action Center’s budget and bylaws.
Chair Michelle Brownstein agreed, saying that a public conversation was necessary before any action was taken.
“I’ll just say, I would need a whole lot more information to feel comfortable writing a check that certainly had my name on it as the Chair,” she said.
Brownstein decided to table to donation discussion until after the September 18 District Five School Boards Association meeting.