CMS pulls capital funding for 4 towns that could build charter schools

CMS pulls capital funding to 4 towns who could build charter schools

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Four towns in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district that won the right to create and operate their own charter schools got cut out from future funding, unless they promise not to build those charter schools over the next 15 years.

The CMS Board of Education passed the "Municipal Concerns Act of 2018" in response to a bill allowing four area towns to have the ability to create their own charter schools. 

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Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed a law allowing the towns of Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Cornelius to create and operate their own charter schools.

Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Matthews, wrote that law because the towns he represents requested it.

He's waiting to hear from the cities on what to do next.

“I was really surprised that the school board would make a move to punish the parents that want to stay in CMS as a way to get even with parents that want to leave it,” Brawley said.

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"Prior to May, any student all over the state could apply for any charter school,” Board of Education member Margaret Marshall said. “This particular legislation changed all that."

After months of discussion, the CMS Board of Education on Tuesday night passed the “Municipal Concerns Act of 2018.”

Much of the act encourages all municipalities to work together and ensure their voices, concerns, and desires are heard by the district. But there’s one part sure to cause controversy.

Part of the act excludes Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Cornelius from capital funding unless they pass a 15-year moratorium, agreeing not to enact any part of the charter school law.

“They have proven once again they do not care about the children who attend the schools,” parent Rob Kidwell said. “They care about the power.”

The decision doesn't take away money from the towns.

Any bond projects are still OK and existing schools will still get money for repairs and maintenance.

Priority funding would go to Charlotte, Davidson, and Pineville – those municipalities not named in the charter school law.

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“I think we have to be wise stewards of our tax dollars,” Marshall said. “I think the possibility does exist that we put significant capital dollars into building a school and then right next door … something else comes out of the ground. I think that something we have to really deal with.”

“We cannot invest in a community if we don't know what the school landscape will be,” said member Carol Sawyer.

“We don't want to build new schools and not have them utilized,” said Ericka Ellis-Stewart, board member-at-large.

All members at the meeting were in favor of the act except board member Sean Strain.

"So we say on one hand, we want to work with you, but we say, ‘We’re not going to invest in your community,’” Strain said. “I know for a fact this isn't the way that I go about building partnerships."

The act also creates a committee to meet regularly with representatives from all Mecklenburg County communities and CMS Board of Education members to make sure all voices are heard.

It also directs the superintendent to look into ways to reduce overcrowding in those communities named in the charter school law and find ways to make sure all students there can go to the school in their town.

North Mecklenburg officials who Channel 9 spoke to Wednesday said the law came out of nowhere.

“The CMS School Board last night voted to put north Mecklenburg at the back of the bus,” Cornelius Commissioner Kurt Naas said.

Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla said it doesn't seem fair that tax dollars could go to CMS and then no tax dollars would go there.

If CMS' move was intended to intimidate the suburban cities, it doesn't appear to be working.

Aneralla said Huntersville is forming a task force to explore starting its own charter school.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett who represents the north side of the county wants to split from the district.

“This is CMS' own actions coming back to bite them in the rear,” Puckett said.

Commissioner Bill James who represents southern Mecklenburg tweeted the North Carolina General Assembly should transfer all CMS facilities in towns to newly formed independent school districts.

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