One of the many things I learned while serving on the CMS Board of Education is that education policy is not easy. We are fortunate to have excellent schools in Matthews, but the problem is there are too few of them. The enormous growth in our town is putting more stress on our schools. The latest bond package holds little relief and no new schools for Matthews. New schools for this area are decades away. For Mecklenburg County municipalities, which by law cannot spend money on the capital or operation of education, it leaves a significant challenge in place when dealing with growth, maintaining a healthy tax base and ensuring the excellent education of our students.
Last week, the Matthews Town Board voted to support a legislative agenda that included HB 514. This bill would allow Matthews and Mint Hill to initiate municipal charter schools. It does not mandate these towns to start a charter school, but allows for an additional choice. Although the bill provides for students in Matthews to have a priority, it does not prohibit students from outside Matthews and Mint Hill from attending the schools.
Both charter schools and municipal charter schools are public schools. They are both alternative choices for parents when deciding the education of their children. As with any charter school, a municipal charter school would co-exist with CMS. Parents would have the same choices they have today: CMS, private school, home school and charter school. If you are satisfied with CMS, simply continue with your CMS school.
HB 514 would allow Matthews to build schools and provide additional seats for our students; make the Matthews Board of Commissioners the board of directors of the school allowing local control; allow the board of directors of the school to choose an approved entity to operate the school, including CMS; and allow Matthews to partner with CMS to educate our students. These points were made during discussions with CMS but were met with CMS's position that it can’t be done. What this means is CMS does not want to consider potential opportunities to have more seats for students and doing so in a realistic time frame.
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Matthews is committed to the best education for our students and is more than willing to work with CMS. Instead, CMS has chosen to make HB 514 into an issue of turf and politics, failing to put the education of our students as the priority; issuing information with a spin to scare the parents of Matthews-area students, with a board member even going as far as implying they would no longer educate Matthews students (a violation of NC general statutes); and proving once again that considering new ideas, identifying the root cause of why some schools are failing, and thinking outside the box is difficult, if not impossible, for the CMS school board. Perhaps CMS should step back and consider Matthews as a partner and reflect upon why the school board continues to struggle with having successful conversations with other elected boards and officials.