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Matthews Votes For Truce With CMS On Charter School Battle

CMS board members and Matthews town commissioners met in March 2018 in an unsuccessful quest to settle differences. Mayor Pro Tem John Higdon (second from left) defeated Mayor Paul Bailey (center) in the 2019 mayoral race.

Updated 6:45 a.m. Tuesday

In a unanimous vote, Matthews town commissioners last night passed a resolution saying the town has no intention of opening municipal charter schools. It’s a truce with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in a two-year battle over how to build schools. 

“I think it's the desire of everyone to move on and to establish a good working relationship,” Mayor John Higdon said about the resolution.

The state legislature granted four Mecklenburg towns that option in 2018, after town officials complained that CMS wasn’t responsive on student assignment and school construction.

Municipal charter schools would differ from other charter schools in North Carolina because towns could use local tax money and give town residents first crack at seats in those schools. So far, none of the four towns has tried to open such schools.

CMS leaders said in 2018 that town charter schools would undermine countywide construction planning. The school board passed a resolution threatening to move the four towns to the bottom of the priority list for future construction.

The push for municipal charters started in Matthews, with state Rep. Bill Brawley as the legislative sponsor and town officials advocating for that option. But the resolution commissioners voted on Monday says the charter bill and the CMS response have  "strained relationships and clouded our shared desire of ensuring the school children in our community receive an excellent education." It states the town's desire to work with CMS and declares that town charter schools are neither necessary nor financially feasible.

So what changed? Elections. In November 2019, Higdon, who supported the "work with CMS" approach, defeated Mayor Paul Bailey, an advocate for the municipal charter option, in the mayoral race. Brawley also lost his 2018 race to represent that district in the state House.

The CMS school board will vote Tuesday to take Matthews off the low-priority list. Last fall the board removed Cornelius, leaving only Mint Hill in the south and Huntersville in the north.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.