Committee takes breaking NC school districts up off the table

Updated: Apr. 4, 2018 at 6:46 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - State lawmakers met Wednesday in Raleigh to continue their work determining if size matters when it comes to student achievement of school districts in the state.

A committee was formed to carry our House Bill 704, which states the committee will study if breaking up local school districts makes sense and if legislation should be recommended. So far, the committee has met four times.

Representative Bill Brawley repeated after the meeting that the committee will not recommend legislation to break up school districts.

"We realized that this committee would not have the sufficient time nor resources to really answer the question of how you would break up districts," Brawley said.

One committee member questions that decision.

"That was not the committee's decision," Senator Joyce Waddell said, adding, "and I have not missed a meeting."

Brawley said it was the chairman's choice not to present legislation this time. Waddell wonders if the committee fulfilled its mission since that idea was taken off the table. The legislator was surprised to see Wednesday's agenda, which consisted of school districts talking about innovative things they are doing.

There was also a report about Charter schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox making a presentation about the highs and lows of the Project Lift program. Waddell says information is good but that she didn't see the connection between what was discussed and the purpose of the committee.

"I think we could have better utilized our time focusing on our objective," Waddell said.

Brawley claims Wednesday's meeting was meaningful and served the purpose.

"We're following 'how do you better educate students,'" Brawley said.

Wilcox says he wanted to talk about breaking up school districts and if the size of a school district matters. He was told to just talk about the CMS program that focuses on the ten challenging schools that make up Project Lift. At the end of Wilcox's presentation, he did mention that student achievement doesn't depend on how large or small a school district is.

"The enemy is not size," Wilcox said. "The enemy is imagination and innovation."

Since legislation will not be presented to break up North Carolina schools at this time, there is still no word about legislation currently on the table for Matthews and Mint Hill to form their own charter school district and break away from CMS. Brawley, who represents that area, didn't say if the presentation on Sugar Creek Charter School made Wednesday is a way to convince lawmakers to push that legislation through.

Wilcox thinks splitting up is a bad idea.

"The kids in Matthews and Mint Hill get great educational opportunities because they are attached to CMS," Wilcox said. "And I think by breaking off or splintering the district, kids won't get the same kinds of options."

The committee is scheduled to present a full report to the General Assembly about its findings by May 1. The committee meets again on April 11.

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