Matthews parents meet with CMS leaders to discuss HB514, possible town-run charter school

(Amanda Foster/WBTV)
(Amanda Foster/WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A first opportunity for parents to speak directly to Charlotte-Mecklenburg School board members about the proposed HB514 bill was presented Wednesday.

"One person can come out with something, but if the other eight don't go alone with it, it goes nowhere," Mary McCray says.

Sean Strain of CMS and John Urban of Matthews proposed a compromise Tuesday, which included Matthews backing away from HB514, but other leaders say it will not work.

"There was something in there that was unlawful," McCray says.

McCray is talking about one point in the compromise, recommending the town have say over student re-assignment.

Urban sat in the audience of the meeting between CMS and parents Wednesday. He says he is willing to re-word the compromise.

"It was never my intention to legislate the re-assignment," he says. "But it was to be able to have the town have some say in how that goes."

Some parents at the meeting are all for any outcome that does not involve a town-funded charter school.

"We can come up with creative solutions to find answers for what Matthews needs, and other schools," mom Renee Garner says.

Many parents wrote notes and questions for CMS leaders on cards, which were then read aloud.

"If large numbers enroll in a new Charter school then that says CMS is not meeting our needs at this time," one parent writes.

"We as a board basically tried to give Matthews everything that they asked for," board member Elyse Dashew says.

Many parents are concerned a new town-led charter would pull students out of CMS schools in Matthews. And with less children in those seats, may come less reason for CMS to pour funding into those schools.

"If the charter school pulls people out of Matthews Elementary and makes [my daughter's] school less reliable, less dependable, then we have a whole other discussion as a family," Garner says.

This is not a Matthews-only issue at this point. It is being considered in Mint Hill, where CMS leaders say they plan to host another town-hall style meeting with parents there.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) district leaders said they were ready to have discussions with parents concerning House Bill 514 as they conducted the town hall meeting Wednesday night at Providence High School.

School leaders believed there was a lot of misinformation about the bill and school leaders want to separate fact from fiction.

CMS says one myth that was being circulated is House Bill 514 is needed to prevent bussing Matthews students to other schools throughout the district.

The district says the fact is no student in Matthews travel more than five miles to their assigned school.

The school district says another myth is House Bill 514 doesn't mean a tax increase for neighbors in Matthews.

CMS says it is a fact towns cannot create their own charter school district without raising taxes.

"I hope to find out what everybody in the city and in this area feelings are about it so I can make a choice how I feel," CMS grandparent Sherry Ayers said.

If the General Assembly passes House Bill 514, the town of Matthews and Mint Hill will be able to split from CMS and create their own charter school. There are more than 6,000 CMS students living in Matthews.

"My first inclination was that yes it's a good move but with some of the information that has come since then - I am not sure," CMS parent Holly Evans said.

The bill has been talked about for more than a year. Some in the community think the bill has been discussed so much, the focus has shifted off improving education for students in Matthews.

"I think this is really about politics. It's about power. It's about privilege,"  Charlotte Black Political Caucus Education Chair Dee Rankin said.

Rankin believes HB 514 is about politics because of what Matthews town commissioners recently offered to CMS leaders as a compromise.

"They would like to see their town have the final say in some of the student assignments and decisions," Rankin said. "That's about having power."

Matthews Mayor Paul Bailey says he is for House Bill 514 because it is the answer to address overcrowded schools in Matthews. Bailey says Matthews running its own charter school would make students in the area a priority and offer immediate relief.

"I am trying to put kids in seats inside the school buildings," Matthews Mayor Paul Bailey said. "I want kids to eat lunch at 11:30 not 10 o'clock in the morning."

Sources say Matthews town commissioners wanted a compromise reached with CMS before Wednesday night's town hall meeting. CMS leaders said they wanted to hear from parents first before continuing talks.

Copyright 2018 WBTV. All rights reserved.