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Lawsuit claims N.C. house bill attempts to resegregate public schools in Mecklenburg Co.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A group is suing the state of North Carolina over a house bill that allows four Mecklenburg County towns to form their own charter schools.

The lawsuit claims that the legislation adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2018 (House Bill 514) violates the state’s constitutional guarantees of a uniform system of free public education, and equal protection under the law.

The lawsuit, filed by the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the NAACP and two parents with children in CMS, claims discrimination. The complaint was filed in Wake County Superior Court Thursday.

Attorneys argue that HB 514, that passed in summer 2018, gives four wealthy and predominately white towns in Mecklenburg County (Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Cornelius) the ability to run schools, and exclude minorities who do not live in the town.

“These new separate and unequal schools would operate with a racially segregative admission preference that would exclude students who do not live in the towns. The bill became law without the governor’s approval because the legislation was considered a ‘local bill’ under the state’s constitution because it only applies to the four towns in Mecklenburg County,” a statement from attorneys read.

In 2019, CMS leaders voiced their concerns against the bill, and asked state leaders to repeal the municipal charter included in House Bill 514. Right now, House Bill 514 gives those four towns authority to spend local money on public education, which has traditionally been a state and county responsibility.

“Allowing these predominantly white towns to create publicly funded schools that can exclude the Black and Brown students that live in Charlotte is another attempt to push our schools back to the days before Brown v. Board of Ed.,” said Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “This legislation cannot stand.”

Several of the local towns that were given the authority have already said they will not open charter schools, and will stay with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

“Our students deserve the same high-quality teachers, curriculum and facilities that students from white and wealthier families enjoy,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP President Corinne Mack. “We are bringing this lawsuit to protect all students’ rights to an equitable education and to help end the segregation in CMS.”

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