Mary C: Education or Segregation? Fight Over HB514

House Bill 514 Gets Closer to Becoming Law

CHARLOTTE, NC —

It’s called House Bill 514, steadily working its way through the North Carolina General Assembly, and if passed, it could change North Carolina’s education landscape in historic ways. What is at stake?

–What the bill does? The bill would allow four majority-white suburban towns outside Charlotte — Matthews, Mint Hill and Huntersville and Cornelius — to create their own charter schools, giving preference to town residents for seats. That bill cleared the Senate on Monday and has gone back to the House, which approved it last year, for a vote on changes made in the Senate.

–Funding change: The bill, combined with a change in this year’s state budget, gives cities the authority to spend tax money on public education; it has drawn national attention as changing the landscape of segregation and school choice in North Carolina.

–Backers say the bill simply gives one more option to towns with overcrowded schools and concerns about a large school district that has sometimes neglected suburban needs.

–Opponents say it would result in segregated schools and move backward.

–Support for the bill, introduced by Rep. Bill Brawley, is overwhelmingly from white legislators, with many lawmakers of color in opposition.

–At a Tuesday news conference, four African-American former school board chairs urged North Carolinians to “stand up and fight institutional racism.” North Carolina NAACP President T. Anthony Spearman said HB 514 was a “sneaky and underhanded” attempt to create “Jim Crow independent school districts.”

–A court fight? Some CMS leaders say they may take the matter to court.

–Diverse schools? —Some say it does not matter; others say you need diverse schools to prepare students for a multi-cultural world.

Like so many other issues in North Carolina, from voting to redistricting, race seems to play a part.

(Mary C. Curtis)