Town charter schools are one step away from happening

Reaction to municipal charter schools

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) District is concerned over Senate Bill 469. It offers a technical correction that will allow municipal charter schools to hire teachers.

It is now law that Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville, and Cornelius can use town money to open and operate their own municipal charter school. Eventhough the bill passed there were still some barriers. Teachers weren’t able to join the State’s Health and Pension plan, but Senate Bill 469 allows teachers who would work for those charter schools to join the state’s plan. CMS claims what this means for taxpayers.

"If you live in Gaston County," CMS School Board Member Carol Sawyer said. "You will be on the hook for the retirement plan of those municipal employees - those teachers who work in that municipal charter."

Sawyer thinks this last minute correction wasn't the right thing to do. The district sent a legislative alert asking lawmakers to vote the bill down. She thinks this has something to with lawmakers having the last word on this issue to allow municipal charter schools to happen sooner.

"To do something as a lame duck session," Sawyer said. "To do substantive work on a bill that is couched as a technical correction but is far from that - is not right."

CMS claims Rep. William Brawley is behind this move. The district thinks Brawley is doing this because he lost his reelection and is doing everything he can to allow municipalities to create charter schools right away before he leaves the General Assembly.

"I think it's a last ditch effort to support his pet project." Sawyer said.

WBTV reached out to Brawley for comment but he has not returned our calls.

Senator Joel Ford wasn't present for the vote on Senate Bill 469, but he agrees with it and says it's fair that teachers who work for a town charter school will have state benefits.

"Charter schools are public schools," Mecklenburg County Senator Joel Ford said. "And if those teachers are working in the field of education and participating and contributing into a public state retirement plan - I think it is just ok."

WBTV asked Ford if he knew why this correction was done at the last minute before the new General Assembly would be seated.

"I believe that they should be entitled to the full rights and privileges of being part of the state of North Carolina," Ford said. "Why was it done - I'm not sure other than the fact that CMS has a lot of work to do with its neighbors."

CMS argues approving Senate Bill 469 sets a precedent and will allow other jurisdictions to possibly open a charter school. Sawyer thinks taxpayers should be outraged. The town charter schools will be set up to exclusively serve students in that jurisdiction.

"They are going to be asked to pay for something to which they will not have access." Sawyer said.

CMS hopes Governor Roy Cooper will veto the bill and it won’t be taken up until the new General Assembly is seated.

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