For Immediate Release
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, April 14, 2006 – NoMerger.org, the grassroots organization and Political Action Committee that formed in the wake of merger discussions two years ago, announced today that it has returned to active status and will issue endorsements for the upcoming primary for the Board of County Commissioners.
Spokespersons for the group, which made statewide headlines with its involvement in the debate over possible merger of the Chapel Hill Carrboro and Orange County school districts, said they have already distributed a questionnaire to the primary candidates, and the answers are posted on the group's Web site, www.nomerger.org.
"Even though merger is ostensibly off the table, we see continuing efforts to bring it back under consideration," said David Weinberg, treasurer of the group. "We really owe it not only to our supporters but to the parents of all school-age children to identify and support candidates who are against merger, and who are also enthusiastic supporters of the schools."
Weinberg said the group will begin accepting donations immediately. The group said it will use the donations to buy signs, flyers and radio spots, and to support other political activities. Weinberg noted that prospective donors may do so using the group's Web site.
Mark Peters, a NoMerger.org steering committee member, said he was delighted to discover that all of the candidates who replied to the survey either directly opposed merger or said they would not support it in the foreseeable future. Peters said he feels there is now broader acceptance that resources could be improved in the Orange County Schools district without merger if OCS voters declare support for increased taxation.
"I think it shows that the candidates are listening to the community and that they respect the strong countywide opposition to merger," Peters said. "On the positive side, I think they are seeing the benefits of local control and local shaping of the school systems."
Peters added that NoMerger.org will issue its endorsements on Wednesday, April 19th. The Orange County primary is scheduled for Tuesday, May 2nd.
Etta Pisano, another steering committee member, emphasized that NoMerger.org, which started out as a grassroots group narrowly focused on merger, has broadened its scope in recent months.
“We are not simply against merger, we are for the schools in the broadest sense,” Pisano said. "We are looking for incumbents who have a strong track record supporting the schools or promising newcomers who have shown a great interest in public education."
Recalling the recent study of statewide education spending, Pisano noted, "With North Carolina ranked 40th in the nation in state funding for education, we voters must support candidates who advocate strongly for our schools so that children throughout Orange County receive the highest quality education despite the relatively limited dollars allocated by the State."
Another NoMerger.org steering committee member cautioned that the much-vaunted notion of equity between the two school systems has yet to be clearly defined. Matthew Barton said that equity did not have to mean a dollar for dollar match in funding for the two systems.
“We in the southern part of Orange County have had impact tax revenues redirected to pay for the costs of new schools in the north, but we expect to get some of that money back over the next decade as the continuing growth in the north helps pay for the schools we need. The commissioner candidates need to understand that the anti-tax, anti-bond activists are really trying to downgrade the quality of public schools. Excellence in education depends on local parents and community commitment, not a mega-merger as in some other counties,” Barton said.
Weinberg agreed, stating that while some form of increased tax revenue is necessary to address educational equity, a dollar-for-dollar definition of equity would mean an immediate and substantial tax increase in the northern part of the county.
"If you go back to the last election, you had a huge rejection of a District Tax for the county schools," Weinberg said. “Some candidates are against merger but in favor of equity in the dollar for dollar sense. Merger or not, dollar-for-dollar equity would mean a 25% tax increase for those in the OCS district – more than double the increase that the voters rejected last November. I hope the candidates recognize how undemocratic that would be.”
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