Leading from the Left

Thursday, March 16, 2006

PTA Council Questionnaire

Below are my answers to the PTA Council Questionniare. I plan on posting most of the questionnaires during the course of the primary campaign. The more information you have, the better for this process.

Mike Nelson

1)Are the funding differences between the two school districts in the countya result of local control? What does funding equity mean to you?

Regardlessof the reason, funding differences exist between the two school systems. Many parents in the Orange County School system believe their children arenot getting the resources they deserve. In a county that values qualityeducation as much as ours does, this is not acceptable.

I believewe should measure equity in terms of results. We will know that we’ve achievedequity when parents in both school systems are equally satisfied with theeducational resources their children receive.

2) Do you support giving taxation authority directly to the school boards?

Generallyspeaking, I favor local taxation authority for school boards. I understandthat the state legislature is the ultimate decision-maker with regard toallowing local school boards to have this responsibility. If the localschool boards request such authority, I will support seeking enabling legislationfrom the North Carolina General Assembly.

3) The School AdequatePublic Facilities Ordinance (SAPFO) requires that adequate classroom spaceexist before new residences are constructed. Do you support SAPFO? Shouldthe SAPFO formula be changed to honor the state mandate for smaller classsizes?

I was one of the first elected officials in Orange County tosupport SAPFO when it was proposed in the mid-1990’s. As mayor, I monitoredits progress as it was developed from a concept to a policy on the ground.

Like any policy, SAPFO should be reviewed periodically for effectiveness. One of the criteria used to evaluate and fine-tune SAPFO should be class-sizerequirements as prescribed the state of North Carolina.

4) Schoolsaccount for 85% of the existing square footage funded by Orange County. In 2005, the county commissioners lowered capital allocations for schoolsto 60%. What are your capital funding priorities for Orange County and howdo schools rank in those priorities?

The voters of Orange County haveclearly indicated, time and again, that education funding is their priority. And I agree—there is no higher priority than funding for our schools. Asa county commissioner, I will be committed to providing adequate educationalresources in both school districts. Other capital priorities include parksand soccer fields, land preservation, and construction of facilities thatprovide important public services such as law enforcement, public works,and social services.

5) As state and federal funding for educationcontinues to erode and as employee benefit costs and teacher pay raisesincrease the need for local funding, would you raise taxes or cut educationservices?

Yes, if necessary. However, I think we also should findnew ways to expand our commercial tax base in Orange County. While I opposestrip malls and big box retail, I believe we can do a better job of encouragingthe creation of small, entrepreneurial businesses that expand our tax base—particularlybusinesses spun off from research at UNC. New ideas and new business opportunitiesare being created everyday at UNC and we’ve failed to take full advantageof them.