CMS And Matthews Near Truce On Charter School Battle

20 hours ago

The town of Matthews and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are about to declare a truce in a two-year battle over how to build schools.

Matthews town commissioners are scheduled to vote Monday on a resolution saying the town has no intention of opening municipal charter schools. 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 up for a vote 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, Mayor Pro Tem John 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.

If Matthews approves the no-charter resolution Monday, the 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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