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Municipal Charter School Bill Gains Final Approval Despite Opposition From NCASA, Other Groups

House Bill 514 allowing four Mecklenburg County towns to create and run their own charter schools was amended prior to final approval by the Senate Monday night and then was enacted into law Wednesday after passing a House vote of 64-53 on concurrence with the Senate changes.

The final Senate amendment deleted a provision making any teachers who work in town-operated charter schools in Mecklenburg eligible for the Teachers and State Employees’ Retirement System. Since 10-month employees, including teachers, are not eligible for the Local Government Retirement System that serves all other municipal employees, this change to H514 leaves any Mecklenburg town charter teachers hired in the future without a public pension option and potentially opens the towns up to lawsuits challenging unequal treatment of employees within the town.

The bill drew lengthy debate in both the House and Senate before final passage. Bill sponsors Reps. William Brawley and John Bradford (both R-Mecklenburg) contended the town councils in Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Cornelius that they represent all requested state authority to open and operate their own charter schools, in which town residents would have priority for enrolling their children. Critics during the debate raised concerns about the bill potentially opening the door to segregated schools within Mecklenburg County and creating a slippery slope in which other towns statewide would seek the same state authority to operate schools that they are ill-equipped to lead.

The North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA) advocacy team worked diligently with other public school advocates in an effort to stop the bill’s passage. NCASA Executive Director Katherine Joyce had sent a letter to all members of the House of Representatives urging them to reject the bill due to the statewide and concerning precedent it sets.

Ultimately, however, the common practice of lawmakers not opposing “local bills” led by other legislators on behalf of the districts they represent pushed the bill through despite concerns that NCASA and others raised.

NCASA appreciates all House and Senate members who voted against the legislation due to the educational concerns it perpetuates. View the final House vote and Senate vote to see where your local lawmakers stand on this issue, and please thank those who joined us in opposing this legislation that ties to a special provision in Senate Bill 99 (the state budget legislation) providing authority for towns to fund either traditional public schools and/or charter schools.