Governor cites ‘taxpayer-funded resegregation’ of Meck schools in veto of NC bill

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday vetoed a 20-page “technical corrections bill” that eases the path for four Mecklenburg towns to create their own charter schools, setting up a Christmas-week showdown with departing legislators.

The bill covers a grab bag of topics, including a provision that makes municipal charter school employees eligible for state benefits. Cooper cited that, along with a section on water quality protection, in his Friday statement announcing the veto.

“(M)unicipal charter schools set a dangerous precedent that could lead to taxpayer funded re-segregation,” his statement says.

This summer the General Assembly approved House Bill 514, which allows Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Cornelius to use municipal tax money to create charter schools that could give preference to children of town residents. Because those suburbs are whiter and more affluent than Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as a whole, several local and state advocates denounced the bill as a step toward segregation.

None of the towns has begun planning for a municipal charter school, but three of them have created education task forces to study that and other options. Making employees eligible for state retirement and health benefits, as other public school employees are, makes that path more feasible, a move CMS has vehemently opposed.

State Rep. Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican who sponsored HB 514, is among the departing legislators expected to be summoned back to override the veto next week. On Jan. 1, Brawley and some other Republican lawmakers will be replaced by Democrats who won the seats in November. After that, Republicans won’t have the “supermajority” required to override a veto without Democratic support.

On Monday, Senate Republicans had urged Cooper to sign or veto all bills on his desk quickly to avoid the need for legislators and their staff to return the week of Christmas.

“Gov. Cooper already knows if he is going to veto any of the bills that we passed last week and he should do so as soon as possible so staff can make holiday plans without the specter of a Christmas week override vote hanging over their heads,” Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon, a Republican from Brunswick County, said in the Monday news release.

By waiting until Friday to veto the technical corrections bill, Cooper may have made it harder for the current group to summon enough members to override it. CMS had encouraged the delay for that reason, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported.

While the governor’s veto may please CMS, it’s likely to frustrate leaders of Wayne County Public Schools. They’re fighting to keep the low-performing Carver Elementary School from being taken over by the state, the News & Observer reported. The technical corrections bill allows Wayne County to retain control of the school under a “restart model” that provides more flexibility to improve performance.

Ann Doss Helms has covered education for the Observer since 2002, long enough to watch a generation of kids go from preK to college. She is a repeat winner of the North Carolina Press Association’s education reporting award.