Cornelius’ uphill battle to break away from CMS

Earlier this year education news here in the Triad was High Point Mayor Jay Wagner’s suggestion that HP break away from Guilford County Schools and form its own municipal school system—a suggestion that was met with considerable opposition. Besides–how would that actually work?

Down I-85, the Town of Cornelius had the same idea and recently the results of a study on the matter. Now it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison to High Point because Cornelius would want to form municipal charter schools. But it’s still going to be an uphill battle:

CMS has sharply opposed both the municipal charters and the idea of splintering into smaller districts. Last August, the board passed the Municipal Concerns Act, which moved the towns that signed on to HB514 to the back of the line for capital funding and school construction, unless they signed a 15-year moratorium on opening a town charter.

Charles Jeter, CMS government relations coordinator, said that even if the state legislation allows for a municipal charter, the towns are discovering just how difficult it would be to carry out, given limitations on land and partnerships with existing charters.

“It seems (Cornelius) has reached the conclusion we’ve long maintained, which is that working together is infinitely better,” Jeter said. “If they’re doing honest research, what they’re finding is that the idea of creating a municipal charter is almost impossible to get done.”

In addition to the administrative issues, Cornelius would have to physically create the schools–either renting a building at “an exorbitant upfront cost, at least $1 million, before the school would receive any funding”—-or embarking upon new construction. Unfortunately, as education committee member Cynthia Bush pointed out–the town controls little unused land. That’s another difference with High Point, which already has the school infrastructure in place.

In light of these findings, Cornelius Mayor Woody Washam said the course is continuing the “dialogue” with CMS. That could be a long and difficult course.

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...

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