CMS-Mecklenburg Debate Continues; Outcry Over Latta Event; Election Delays On The Horizon
It seemed like disagreement was everywhere this week.
In one case, it was the debate over Mecklenburg County’s decision to temporarily withhold $56 million from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, pending plans on how to improve academic outcomes for Black and Hispanic students. After a meeting that ran over two hours Monday, county commissioners and school board members were still at odds.
“I’m not sensing a sufficient basis for agreement today,” Mac McCarley, the attorney mediating the dispute, said during the session. Next, the county and the district will head to formal mediation.
That’s not the only issue on the plate for CMS.
School districts across North Carolina are bracing for six weeks of a state-mandated summer school program — without enough teachers. CMS needs 2,300 teachers willing to staff the district’s 85 sites, but less than two weeks ago, there were still 300 slots open.
Though it’s a challenge, the CMS administrator tasked with overseeing the district’s version of the program said a benefit would be mitigating “any learning loss from the pandemic and the different learning environment the kids had to learn in.”
And that brings us to another big disagreement: COVID-19 vaccines. Not everyone’s sold on getting a shot, and various states are trying out different incentives to pick up the pace of vaccinations. This week North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced that vaccinated residents will be entered into a lottery program that could win them $1 million. There will be four drawings, and people who were vaccinated before June 10 are entered once. Those vaccinated later get two entries.
Another major source of disagreements over the last year: whether or not to “defund the police.” The term, which rose to prominence after George Floyd’s murder, means different things to many people, but in essence, it’s about whether to reduce police department budgets and use that money elsewhere, like on social programs and services. And several major cities have slashed police budgets — Seattle, Atlanta and Austin, Texas, among them. Charlotte, though, is poised to increase its police budget by $10 million this year, up to $301 million.
The public outcry last summer wasn't just about Floyd’s death. Protesters decried police brutality but there was also a call for an end to systemic racism in the United States. That led to a reckoning on racism that had many people and organizations questioning their roles in an effort to dismantle white supremacy. And it’s led many organizations to take hard looks at their histories, their habits and even their choice of language.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason why a planned event at a Mecklenburg County historic site struck a nerve for so many people this week. Historic Latta Plantation posted an announcement about an event on Juneteenth — the holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States — that promised stories from “the massa himself” and about “white refugees,” along with Confederate soldiers sharing their thoughts on the “downfall of the Confederacy.”
The event was canceled and drew immediate condemnation from Mecklenburg County, the town of Huntersville, the Arts & Science Council and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, who said, “We should not support any business or organization that does not respect equality, history, and the truth of the African-American people’s journey to freedom.”
But the historic site’s manager, Ian Campbell, disagrees and responded to the criticism Saturday with a 1,300-word statement, saying “no apology will be given for bringing a unique program to educate the public about former slaves becoming FREE.”
In South Carolina, meanwhile, the dispute over a foul stench keeps getting bigger. The New-Indy Containerboard paper mill on the Charlotte metro’s outskirts was hit with a third federal lawsuit this week over emissions that neighbors say cause pollution and make them sick.
And a disagreement over whether to delay some North Carolina elections this year because of census data delays could soon be coming to a close. Lawmakers in the state House this week approved legislation that would move fall elections in several cities — Charlotte among them — to spring 2022. That’s because delayed data would leave Charlotte and other cities without enough time to redraw districts ahead of municipal elections in the fall.
For Charlotte City Council members, that delay could amount to just a few extra months on their terms. But for some members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, it could mean a full extra year. As WFAE’s Steve Harrison reported in his Inside Politics newsletter, the district didn’t have a preference on whether the election should be moved to spring or fall.
“We just needed the election moved to 2022,” CMS government relations coordinator Charles Jeter said. “It didn’t matter to us when."
ICYMI: MORE LOCAL NEWS
Latinos make up a large and growing share of the students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, but a tiny minority of its teachers and principals, according to a diversity report presented Tuesday.
Remember when no one could find toilet paper? Well, now there are shortages of other things. In this week's BizWorthy, we hear about that, overdue book fines being eliminated in Charlotte and how artificial intelligence wrote a newsletter.
Gov. Roy Cooper has set ambitious goals for wind energy off the North Carolina coast over the next two decades as part of his plan to fight climate change by shifting away from fossil fuels.
About 12,000 immigrants with temporary protected status live in North Carolina. Any that entered the country illegally are not eligible for permanent residency, a Supreme Court ruling said.
Public officials in South Carolina towns just south of Charlotte spent $160,000 on a trip that included a winery tour. It's just one instance highlighted by the Charleston-based Post and Courier's investigative project “Uncovered," which examines public officials' conduct.
North Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow people to purchase handguns without needing to get a permit from their county's sheriff. The state sheriffs' association says the current process is redundant.
The history of African American cuisine has connections to Africa, and how it's translated to American tables is receiving a lot of attention in the media these days. Last month, Charlotte Five had "The Skillet: How Black Cuisine Became America's Supper."
The CDC's eviction moratorium expires at the end of the month. After that, tenants behind on the rent will be faced with evictions. WFAE spoke with a Mecklenburg County magistrate about what to expect in small claims court.
THE HIGH COST OF COVID-19
When a crisis strikes, communities like Charlotte look to nonprofit organizations for support. The coronavirus pandemic was no different. Except this time, nonprofits were also affected. Their finances and operations suffered. Now they're beginning the road to recovery.
North Carolina residents who have waited to get a COVID-19 vaccine are getting a chance to cash in. The state has started offering cash incentives in a few counties, and now there's a statewide incentive program. WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson, in his On My Mind commentary, wishes it didn’t have to come to this.
BEST OF CHARLOTTE TALKS
The latest jobs numbers are up. Businesses are reopening with a number of key sectors clearly on the rebound. But even as employers are hiring, a labor shortage and supply constraints are holding us back. And prices are on the rise. Inflation is speeding up at the fastest rate since 2008.
In the latest Still Here, WFAE's series on resiliency amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reporter Sarah Delia speaks with a Charlotte chef who went from losing his job to building his own business — all while mentoring those struggling with sobriety during a pandemic because he understood their battle.
This week on SouthBound, Tommy Tomlinson talks to Hilary Green, a historian who uncovered the history of how enslaved people built the University of Alabama. Her research into that hidden history led to a project called Hallowed Grounds, which includes a campus tour that nearly 5,000 people have taken. Tomlinson and Green talk about what hiding history means to those of us in the present.