In 4-3 vote Matthews town leaders show support for HB 514

In 4-3 vote Matthews town leaders show support for HB 514

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Matthews Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to approve a legislative agenda that included a measure showing approval for HB 514, legislation that would potentially allow the town to create their own school system.

Several residents spoke in front of the town commissioners prior to the vote. Many of them voiced similar concerns regarding the charter school conversation. They told the elected leaders they were worried about their taxes rising, the school system becoming segregated and their children being pulled from schools they were already happy with.

"The higher taxes would raise our property values, create higher cost of living and drive out more people who can't afford to be here," said Bob Stillerman, a Matthews resident and local pastor.

He said he would have a child entering the school system in a matter of years and is satisfied with the schools she is set to attend.

"The Town Board's vote was in no way a vote to break away from CMS," the town of Matthew said. "Should HB514 be signed into state law, extensive additional research and input from the community will be sought prior to the Town Board considering any additional action."

Matthews resident Ann Harlan also spoke at the meeting. She told WBTV that her biggest concern was that a new charter school system for the Matthews area would lead to institutional racism.

"We don't know how much this is gonna cost. We don't know the long-term consequences," said Harlan.

The town of Matthews released the following statement Tuesday:

"The Matthews Board of Commissioners voted last evening (4-3) to support a Legislative Agenda. The approved agenda includes support for HB514. HB514 is a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly that would give certain localities the right to start their own charter school, should they choose to do so. Should HB514 eventually be signed into state law, it only gives the locality the right to create their own charter school - it does not mean that the Town of Matthews will take any action, let alone break away from CMS."

Several residents were disappointed in the outcome of Monday's vote. Mayor Paul Bailey and town commissioners Chris Melton, Kress Query and John Urban all voted to approve the legislative agenda that town leaders were considering. Commissioners John Higdon, Barbara Dement and Jeff Miller voted against the approval.

Urban spoke to WBTV following the vote. He said he didn't want one item to jeopardize the entire legislative agenda.

"I've offered compromises to CMS (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools). No one latched on to any of those. I'm willing to work with them moving forward but at this stage in the game I'm not willing to jeopardize an entire legislative agenda for one item," Urban explained.

Higdon called Urban's response about the agenda "a little ridiculous". He said he wanted to have HB 514 removed from the legislative agenda altogether.

"We could have pulled that portion from the agenda. I was told that we couldn't. I attempted to do that before the meeting started," said Higdon.

The commissioner explained that if the vote had gone his way, he would have made a separate motion to support the rest of the legislative agenda without HB 514. He said he does support the other elements within the legislative agenda.

Higdon told WBTV he doesn't see Matthews ever getting its own charter school system, but worries about what the Monday night vote may have done to the town's relationship with CMS.

"It's a threat to them. It threatens their very existence. If we start pulling money away from CMS, it threatens their ability to stay viable," said Higdon.

Urban said he thinks the town can still reach a compromise with CMS, but said the two parties have not gotten to that point yet. The commissioner also noted that the charter school conversations surrounding Matthews were "unfounded".

"No one has said we're breaking off from CMS. All the hearsay, all the rhetoric is just really unfounded," said Urban.

Mayor Paul Bailey declined to comment when WBTV requested an interview after Monday's meeting.

CMS leaders are scheduled to discuss HB 514 at a meeting Tuesday night.

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