Central Piedmont Community College has launched its own "Vote Yes for CPCC Bonds" campaign, in addition to the education bonds campaign led by the Charlotte Chamber and MeckEd. Mecklenburg voters will be asked to approve $210 million for CPCC and $290 million for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on Nov. 5.
Public bodies such as CMS and CPCC walk a fine line in promoting bonds. State law prohibits using public money and resources to advocate for a "yes" or "no" vote, and CPCC officials acknowledged in September they had crossed that line by forwarding an email from the "Vote Yes" campaign on President Tony Zeiss' work account. But the CPCC campaign is funded by up to $50,000 in private money provided by the CPCC Foundation, with no government money involved, said spokesman Jeff Lowrance.
Lowrance said it's traditional for CPCC to run its own campaign in addition to chamber efforts to promote community college and K-12 bonds.
CMS, meanwhile, is pushing hard to provide information while stopping just short of advocating for a specific vote. Many schools are sending home copies of bond information from the district's web site, often with notes like this one from Ballantyne Elementary's Bear Blast:
On November 5th, all registered voters in Mecklenburg County will have a chance to decide whether CMS receives $290 million in school bonds. If approved, the bond money will be used to add classrooms, build new schools, repair again systems, and renovate older schools across Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Please help show our students that every vote counts by taking part in the elections on November 5th. ... Visit the CMS website for more information about the bond referendum and why strong public schools matter to all of us. Please let us know if you have further questions and again, make your vote count on November 5th.
Christine Mast, who is running for the District 1 school board seat, argues that such material is inappropriate. "School communications are clearly being used for bond advocacy by getting our students to bring these documents home with them," she wrote in an email to Superintendent Heath Morrison. The web site implies that "a 'yes' bond vote is the only vote that supports public schools," she wrote.
CMS Chief Communication Officer Kathryn Block disagrees. The wording "informs people about how the bond money, if approved, would be used and the importance of participating in the voting process," she said. "It does not advocate for a specific position."
Meanwhile, Tom Davis from the north suburban SPARK and Tim Timmerman from the south suburban SMART sent out a statement calling for Mecklenburg's seven municipalities to provide money for a cost-of-living allowance for CMS teachers. They say they hope to hear Charlotte mayoral candidates Patrick Cannon and Edwin Peacock address that proposal at Wednesday's "Solving It Together" public forum.
Davis and Timmerman are urging voters to vote down the CMS bonds. The only connection to teacher raises is that they're promoting a "teachers before bricks and mortar" slogan. Teachers are paid from the district's operating budget, which is separate from the budget for construction and renovation, though county property taxes support both.