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The School Board’s shocked, just shocked. And mad. “Who on the Wake County Board of Commissioners,” growls one board member, “Wants the dubious honor of putting Wake County on a downward spiral?”

What’s up? The Board asked the County Commissioners to almost double its budget over the next five years – and the Commissioners said they didn’t have that much money. So the Board’s in a snit.

When it comes to spending taxpayers’ money the School Board gets a great deal. It doesn’t have to find the money. Or raise taxes. That’s the County Commissioners’ problem. All the Board has to do is spend it. And it’s good at it.

This year with school enrollment up 5% the School Board demanded an 18% spending increase – $54 million. The commissioners gave it $18 million, which is more than any other department got. The School Board shot back it must have the other $36 million or the Wake County School System – “a shining example in North Carolina and in the nation” – is kaput. The Commissioners will have ruined it.

I tried to determine how much the School Board spends per pupil and how many of its employees are non-teachers; but you’d need an M.B.A. from Harvard – which I don’t have – to even begin to understand the School Board’s budget. I’m amazed the County Commissioners didn’t just give them the money to avoid reading the budget. I saw two numbers on how much the Board spends per student: $7500 and $8900. Also, according to its budget, the School Board has 17,500 employees (one for every eight students): Only 9,228 of them are teachers – but according to the School Board it has virtually no administrators.

Here’s an admittedly biased conclusion: People like to spend money. They especially like to spend other people’s money. And there’s hardly a better excuse on earth for spending other people’s money than getting on a School Board. The ‘handful’ of folks at school administration headquarters have figured out they can sell almost anything – politically – by saying the Wake County schools will collapse and the world will end if they have to cut their budget. (And their definition of cut is to ask for $56 million, get $18 million, and call that a $36 million shortfall.)

And it works. This morning in the News and Observer a headline read: Wake school board weighs budget cuts. The first line reads, “Wake County parents, students and teachers will find out today how wide the budget ax will swing to make up the school district’s $36 million shortfall…”

Doesn’t that beat all? The County Commissioners gave them an $18 million increase. And it’s a $36 million cut.

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