CMS sends email to parents about House Bill 514 - Did it cross the line?

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District (CMS) sent out an email to parents telling them to say no to House Bill 514.

The email also told them to contact their legislators by noon to let the politicians know how they feel about the controversial bill so it can be defeated.

If HB514 is approved, the towns of Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville, and Cornelius would be allowed to open a charter school district.

CMS told parents this bill would raise taxes, offer less choice, and cause more racial division within the district. Some leaders think the email was inappropriate.

"I think it is a poor decision on their part," County Commissioner Jim Puckett said. "And it may come back to haunt them."

Puckett believes if CMS starts trying to influence the business in Raleigh by forcing their opinion of parents - that tactic could be used against the district one day.

"Do you start to have legislators to actively get involved with local decisions with local boards of education, pressuring superintendents?" Puckett asked. "It's just an avenue that education should not get into."

Puckett says school districts shoudn't use state funds to send out messages forcing its beliefs on parents. He says CMS should let its lobbyist handle the politics of defeating a bill.

"I think they as a system - to stay out of it," Puckett said.

It is allowed for CMS to educate parents about current events, but the district is not known for using its position and funds to sway parents. House Bill 514 originated in Matthews. Matthews Mayor Paul Bailey says he doesn't know if CMS crossed the line but was careful how he and other town leaders communicated with voters their positions about the controversial bill.

"We individually communicated with the press on the matters at hand," Bailey said. "Send out our opinion. We posted op-eds on our website. We did not spend any town money to go out and promote HB 514."

Puckett believes CMS sending out the email should tell people something.

"It's really kind of a desperation call," Puckett said.  "CMS is so threatened by parents having a choice other than CMS."

CMS leaders have said in the past it is not threatened and would put some of its schools against other charter schools. The school district also responded to sending out the email. It would not say if it was illegal or crossed the line.

Here's what was sent:

Families should know all they can about how HB514 will affect them and how to share their questions and concerns with their legislative leaders," CMS Chief Communications Officer Tracy Russ said. "The district has provided information about HB514 and reasons why the Board of Education is opposed to HB514 through emails, town halls and social media. CMS is opposed to HB514 because HB514 is bad public policy and will drive taxes higher, reduce educational choices and further segregate communities.

The Senate is expected to take a final vote on House Bill 514 on Monday.

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