Town Board Votes Not to Join Municipally Operated Charter School Effort
The action is listed on the state’s legislative agenda as House Bill (HB) 514. While it is being supported by other Mecklenburg County municipalities, Davidson commissioners rejected it outright Tuesday evening, unanimously voting (5-0) for a resolution that stated “There is no support from the board for the Town of Davidson to join House Bill 514.”
The bill as written, applies only to Matthews and Mint Hill, but Cornelius and Huntersville town boards recently voted to be included.
A Charlotte Observer article explains “The bill, which emerged during the uncertainty of a CMS student assignment review, has been touted as a tool to protect communities and relieve school crowding in the booming suburbs. Critics, including CMS leaders, say it promotes segregation while putting municipal taxpayers in jeopardy.” Other detractors fear it could be expanded to apply statewide, putting responsibility for an important municipal function on legislators with no experience in the field.
In their discussion of the issue, Davidson commissioners expressed their satisfaction with the current management by CMS of Davidson-affiliated schools—Davidson Elementary School, Bailey Middle School and Hough High School. They noted that the town has no experience in education matters, and see HB 514 as a potentially highly costly addition to municipal operations.
Commissioner Jane Campbell made three points. “A town cannot incur debt for capital construction in creating a municipal charter school. 2) A town cannot use any state funding to obtain land or build a building. They would have to use pass-through county funds. 3) Teachers in municipal charters may not receive state retirement and benefits.”
She cited a note in which a citizen said, “Creating charters would create “two Davidsons—charter schools for the privileged and public schools for those who lack the resources to send their children to charter schools.”
Commissioner Jim Fuller said, “I don’t think the town of Davidson has any business running a communications company, and I don’t think we have any business running a school system.” The debt would be astronomical. Are we really qualified to run a school system? I believe the public schools are a pillar of our democracy.”
Commissioner David Sitton, whose primary and secondary education was entirely within CMS, said that he “saw the very worst and very best of CMS. Even in the very worst, you learn things that you don’t find in a book. It’s a valuable and enriching experience for children. The bigger issue here for me is this proposal seems to have been half drawn, at best. There’s been no strategic thought in how we would potentially do this.”
Commissioner Matt Fort who has four children, two of whom are old enough to be at Davidson Elementary School., said “I understand Huntersville and why they would support HB 514, if you had a bad experience you’d be passionate about changing. There’s so much more conversation we need about this before we could begin putting our names on a list. We’re not at a point when I have enough information to even kick the can down the road. We’ve gotten ourselves into a mess before, and I’d like to continue getting out of those before we make any new messes. I don’t think we have any business even having this discussion at this point.”
Commissioner Autumn Michael Rierson said that “from a policy perspective, some people are looking for choices, while we’re tucked away in the top of the county and have a lot of choices already. We are a small town with a small budget, and that raises capacity issues in running a school system. I’m a champion of public schools. I’ve been frustrated with the schools, but feel overall I’ve developed relationships with administrators to be able to address issues and concerns as they come up. This feels like this is a solution looking for a problem for us here in Davidson.”
Mayor Rusty Knox said, “I started at Davidson Elementary in 1962. I have two at Hough. Three of my grads have all gone to state universities, and two have been on full academic scholarships. I look at this as playing a political card. We’ve gotten our fair share of new schools and programs over the past decade. Our schools are crowded, but not overcrowded. Public school may not be good for everyone, but the overall picture of what CMS has to offer means that I’m happy with where my kids went. And where I ended up.”
Bill Giduz was the son who followed his father’s footsteps into journalism. He has been involved his entire life with news and photography in schools he attended and jobs he’s held. He believes now that he’s got a few good years left to devote to The News of Davidson.