Parents, civil rights groups challenge town charter school districts

Mark Dorosin

Parents, civil rights groups and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, are challenging a law approved by the General Assembly in 2018 that gave four towns in North Carolina the right to establish charter schools.

The plaintiffs, who filed the complaint in Wake County Superior Court against the State of North Carolina, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, contend the law “violates the state’s constitutional guarantees of a uniform system of free public education, and equal protection under the law.”

House Bill 514 authorized four predominantly white, wealthy towns in Mecklenburg County —Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Cornelius — to create Town Charter School Districts within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools District.

It was introduced following a proposal by CMS to redraw student assignment areas to stop the racial and socioeconomic segregation in CMS schools.

HB 514 became law without Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature because it was considered a “local bill,” only applying to four towns in Mecklenburg County.

“These Town Charters will result in further racial and socioeconomic segregation of students not only by creating majority white and wealthy schools using public funds,” said Mark Dorosin, a managing attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee. “But also by leaving CMS schools even more segregated by race and class and undermining the district’s ability to address that disparity. Decades of education research shows that segregation hurts all students.”

The North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the NAACP and two parents with children in CMS filed the lawsuit. The plaintiffs are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee and the law firm of Tin, Fulton, Walker and Owen, P.L.L.C.

“Allowing these predominantly white towns to create publicly funded schools that can exclude the Black and Brown students that live in Charlotte is another attempt to push our schools back to the days before Brown v. Board of Ed., Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina NAACP said in a news release.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP President Corinne Mack said black students deserve the same high-quality teachers, curriculum and facilities that students from white and wealthier families enjoy.

“We are bringing this lawsuit to protect all students’ rights to an equitable education and to help end the segregation in CMS,” Mack said.

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