For Immediate Release – June 15, 2016
Rep. Shelly Willingham-D-Edgecombe; Rep. Bobbie Richardson, D-Franklin; Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash; Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, D-Northampton.
For more information: Contact Rep. Shelly Willingham – 252-813-0381 or Rep. Bobbie Richardson – 919-971-0571
Nash-Edgecombe Democratic Legislators Statement on School System Compromise
On June 15, Rep. Collins in the House Rules Committee replaced Senate Bill 382, formerly a transportation bill on the ferry system, with a compromise to prevent a split of the Nash-Rocky Mount school system. After a week of deliberations, the bill will address the financial concerns of the Nash County commissioners along with a name change in 2020 and a moratorium on lawsuits by the NRMS Board. The bill also directs the city of Rocky Mount to pay the operations gap to Nash per Edgecombe County pupil for the next four years. Edgecombe County will handle the capital gap beginning in 2016-17, and in 2020, Edgecombe County will be responsible for all costs. In a surprise move by Collins, the bill includes a trigger provision, that would set up a process for and de-merge the NRMS if the payments are not made as scheduled. In addition, the Local Government Commission will review and certify any issues regarding failure to make payments under this new legislation.
“While we do not support the name change, lawsuit or de-merger trigger provisions, we are relieved that this compromise arrangement will preserve the Nash-Rocky Mount school system, which was our number one priority,” said N.C. Rep Bobbi Richardson, D-Franklin. “It is estimated that name change will cost over $500,000, and those funds could definitely be better used for direct educational purposes.”
In addition to the financial directives, the bill includes a moratorium to prevent a lawsuit from occurring over the next 10 years by the Nash Rocky Mount School Board against Nash County over school funding. Although a split will be averted, a school system name change, to “Nash Administrative Unit” and “Nash School Board”, omitting Rocky Mount, will occur once the city finalizes its participation in the funding.
“I am satisfied that we got the best arrangement we could get to include the financial directives that our constituents support,” acknowledges N.C. Rep. Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe. “Although I am not a proponent of the name change, the lawsuit and the de-merger trigger provisions, the preservation of the school system and the financial provisions approved by Edgecombe are the most significant aspects of this bill. Keeping the system intact is pivotal for the region, for economic development, and most importantly, for our students and families. We’re glad that we could work together as a local delegation to reach an agreement. Now, we can begin to concentrate on other issues.”
Senators Bryant and Smith-Ingram issued a joint statement: “We appreciate the heavy lifting done by our house delegation members and all the citizens and civic and business leaders in both counties who worked to save the Nash Rocky Mount Schools and our belief in regional collaboration. Like our Democratic colleagues in the House, we are not supportive of all the provisions, and we worry that the de-merger trigger provisions have not been sufficiently reviewed or vetted by us, the school systems or others potentially affected; however, at least in a worst case scenario, de-merger will be handled by the local school boards. We strongly oppose the heavy-handed process that led to this compromise, and the unnecessary trigger provisions that go beyond any language acted on in any public meetings by the Commissioners. Moving forward, we will remain vigilant to protect our constituents from “trigger-happy” truce breakers.”
Nash County commissioners questioned the funding formula over a year ago, challenging the 1992 legislation which created the Nash-Rocky Mount school system, resulting in the dismissal of a desegregation lawsuit. Since 1992, Rocky Mount has provided the gap funding for Edgecombe County students to ensure the same amount of funding per pupil is provided for students in both counties. Rep. Jeff Collins, D-Nash joined a majority of the Nash Commissioners in threatening to de-merge the system if their ever-changing demands were not met, and Democratic legislators fought along with the City and Edgecombe County and three of the Democratic Nash Commissioners to keep the focus solely on the financial issues and saving the system.