Under the Dome

NC lawmakers to discuss bill on how to split school districts

State Rep. Bill Brawley spoke at a 2016 meeting on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the south suburbs, convened after Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor started talking about splitting the district.
State Rep. Bill Brawley spoke at a 2016 meeting on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the south suburbs, convened after Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor started talking about splitting the district. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

The state House Education Committee will consider a bill Tuesday that would look at how to split North Carolina school systems into smaller districts, a preliminary step that could make it possible to break up large systems such as Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

House Bill 704 would create a joint legislative study committee to look into whether legislation should be introduced to allow for the breakup of previously merged school systems. The committee would also consider how to divide school districts and whether a local referendum or petition would be needed before a district could be split.

By considering the bill Tuesday, the Education Committee could move it on to the full House for approval before a key deadline next Thursday. Most legislation needs to clear either the House or Senate by that “crossover” deadline of April 27 to be considered the rest of this legislative session.

 

Many transplants to North Carolina are used to individual towns running their own small school systems. In contrast, most school systems in North Carolina are county-based.

Over the years, many school systems in the state merged to try to save money and to integrate schools. The state went from 167 school districts in the 1960s to 115 now.

The bill’s three primary sponsors are Reps. John Bradford and Bill Brawley of Mecklenburg County and Rep. Chris Malone of Wake County. All three Republican legislators represent counties where there’s been support from some suburban residents to break up their large school districts.

Brawley said the bill would study under what circumstances large school systems should be broken up and how to do it in a way that’s fair and improves educational outcomes for all students. No specific districts are mentioned in the legislation.

If approved, the committee made up of state lawmakers would make a final report by May 1, 2018.

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