Local & State Voices

Who’s to blame for the CMS-suburbs fight? Men who don’t listen.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board and Matthews town commissioners held a second joint meeting April 17 to talk about a municipal charter school bill and the town’s concerns about CMS.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board and Matthews town commissioners held a second joint meeting April 17 to talk about a municipal charter school bill and the town’s concerns about CMS. ahelms@charlotteobserver.com

What do you get when 93 percent of Matthews residents at a public forum speak against pushing forward HB514, the town charter school bill; and when 84-94 percent of Matthews parents express confidence in the quality of their children’s public schools in a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools survey? You get a bill pushed through that does not look reflective of what the constituents of Matthews desire.

While it is fashionable to focus negative attention on CMS and its efforts to reset things with Mecklenburg suburbs, we need to have an honest discussion of why we are here. I attended the LEE Institute’s attempt at mediation between the school district and towns, and I watched parent after parent come up and make impassioned arguments against HB 514, a bill that allows towns to build and operate their own charter schools. The question needing to be asked is, if parents are happy with CMS, who was the bill really for?

Ultimately, a handful of men in Matthews went against parents and pushed through the legislation. HB514 is bad for a county 99th out of 100 in economic mobility nationally, with segregation being a driver. Attempts to create affluent enclaves may be great for test scores, but they are detrimental for mental health and addiction scores. They stunt kids preparing for a more diverse world and put towns in a bad light, especially considering that town leaders who supported HB514 fit one racial demographic and are all men, save one woman.

The ideology that drives HB514 says that there must be a battle between the towns and the city and that the towns have all the growth and carry the district financially. The numbers do not bear this out as town growth and tax revenue have not outpaced the city. The reality is that a better Charlotte makes better towns and better towns make Charlotte better.

While CMS could have more effectively introduced their Municipality Concerns Act of 2018, I will not take the step of political gaslighting that makes victims out of a handful of men who bullied their constituents in attempts at bullying the school board despite efforts of mediation. By pushing through HB514 and calling it a “just in case” measure, these men essentially told CMS, “I want to change the terms of our marriage. I am going to stay with you for now, but I have enlisted a girlfriend just in case. If you don’t anger me, I might stay with you. But if you do, I’m definitely moving on to her.” CMS said “I’m moving to the guest room until we’re on the same page.” And now those men are saying, “your harshness pushed me to my girlfriend.”

What we need out of leadership now is to not use kids as pawns, but to understand that a strong overall Mecklenburg County benefits cities and towns alike. As we see women — who are more consistently socialized to listen and cooperate — running and winning elections in record numbers around the country, I think a significant reason is people are tired of winner-takes-all politics that underserve us all. In the CMS Open Program, I grew up learning cooperative competition that simultaneously benefited my peers and myself. As I look at state senate and county commission races in our towns, I hope that constituents elect leaders who appreciate cooperation’s value in serving all our county’s children.

Email: justinperry.observer@gmail.com
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