I attended a town hall meeting in Ballantyne a few Saturday mornings ago when N.C. Rep. Bill Brawley was handed the microphone.
“Prepare to be here until 5 o’clock,” chimed a longtime political figure at my table.
But Brawley delivered a passionate and somewhat concise explanation of why he believes in school choice.
He recounted how his wife went head-to-head with a principal over a teacher.
“Mrs. Brawley, I’m not going to make you happy,” the principal told his wife. “Feel free to take your daughter out of this school and put her in any school you want.”
Back then, charter schools didn’t exist in Matthews or Mint Hill. Private school was too expensive.
“My daughter, who is in her twenties, still suffers from the loss of an entire year of education,” Brawley said. “I never want a parent in this room to be told, ‘Feel free to take your child out of this school and put them in any school you want,’ and not have the ability to do that. The impact of school choice on public education is to make it better.”
Brawley took the mic because someone asked him and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark what they thought about the possibility of tax dollars funding private or Christian education.
Clark gave a very dull, academic answer, which mostly consisted of how CMS is funded.
Brawley, on the other hand, gave CMS a wakeup call that perked me up that early Saturday morning.
While Brawley noted how the N.C. General Assembly has increased funding of public schools year after year, he also talked about his sworn constitutional duty to provide quality education for every student in North Carolina. Quality education – not public education.
“I will buy quality education for the children of North Carolina from anybody who is selling it because that is what we need,” Brawley said, with Clark over his shoulder.
Brawley easily won over the room, while Clark’s answer was indicative of a problem I’ve noticed at the highest levels of CMS. The complexities of running a school district go above people’s heads. Passion is often met with the explanation of red tape.
Beyond the overabundance of acronyms and educational jargon, I don’t think school board members always have a complete understanding of why they are being asked to vote on something.
The administration should treat opportunities with the public as an opportunity to engage the community much like a teacher in a 21st-century classroom.