MECKLENBURG COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The house passed a municipal charter school bill in the Mecklenburg County area Wednesday.
The bill, HB 514, will allow the towns of Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville, and Cornelius to open a charter school district. The bill passed the representatives 64-53.
Those for the bill argued that the bill was not about attacking Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, but about giving parents options.
Representative Kelly Alexander told his colleagues the bill reminded him of a time when North Carolina schools were segregated.
Representative Scott Stone took issue with Alexander's comments and accused politicians who are associating race into HB 514 as borderline questioning the integrity of those who supported House Bill 514.
Bill sponsor Representative Bill Brawley told his colleagues this bill has nothing to do with race - it's all about providing more options for parents when choosing a school for their kids. Brawley believes this will be good for the educational system in North Carolina and it's ok to be bold.
"Are we thinking of something new. Yes we are," Rep. Bill Brawley said.
Another concern was the bill would allow towns to raise taxes to support the charter schools without approval of the taxpayers.
"I just wished that we would back up and remember what we are doing and how we do it here," Representative Beth Carney said. "Not leaving people out that important debate on taxing authority."
Bill supporters say this was not about attacking Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), but about giving parents more options.
In the end, no Democrats voted for the bill while most of the Republicans did.
CMS School Board Chair Mary McCray says she's disappointed in elected leaders passing HB 514.
The House passed the bill last year but had to revote because the Senate made changes to the bill.
Last week, CMS sent out an email to parents telling them to say no to House Bill 514.
CMS released the following statement after the bill passed Wednesday:
There are still some issues with the bill, the current bill doesn't allow teachers who would work for the town charter schools to enroll in the state pension plan. Also Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a part of the budget that would allow towns to raise taxes in order to support the charter school district. Supporters of the bill say those details will be worked out.
Matthews Mayor Paul Bailey released a statement just before 6 p.m.
While Matthews is waiting to establish a charter school district, if other towns want to start a charter school - they have to follow the process like other charter schools.