Charter Schools

a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.
Leigh Ann Cross

State Board of Education members voted Thursday to approve eight new charter schools.

The schools got the green light, but they will still have to meet a number of requirements by next summer before being allowed to open for the 2017-2018 school year. Those requirements include hiring staff, finding a facility, recruiting board members and drafting policies.

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

More than half of the state budget is spent on public education.

In the latest budget adjustments, state lawmakers approved an average 4.7 percent raise for teachers.

Lawmakers are considering a number of education changes.
Courtesy of Pixbay.com

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the most recent action from the state Legislature. 

Changes to the charter school renewal process have cleared both the state House and Senate, and are on their way to the governor's desk.

Teacher, school, hallway
Jess Clark / WUNC

Lawmakers in the state House have renewed efforts to direct more money from school districts to charter schools.

Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg)
NC General Assembly

 Lawmakers are drafting a bill that would allow charter schools to take over five of the state’s lowest-performing elementary schools. The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg) wants lawmakers to approve the takeover legislation in the short session. But Bryan is championing the proposal, despite research showing a similar charter takeover in Tennessee had minimal impact on student performance.

students with laptops in classroom
Enokson / Flickr/Creative Commons

Wake County Public Schools plans to ask permission to run two elementary schools like charter schools.

As part of the 2013-14 state budget, the State Board of Education is required to study virtual charter schools and propose draft rules.
Ian Usher via Flickr

North Carolina’s first virtual charter schools are challenging a report that more than a quarter of their students have withdrawn.

Diversity Low Among N.C. Charter Schools

Feb 2, 2016
At one point, only six percent of students at Central Park School for Children in Durham, NC qualified for free and reduced meals. After enacting a weighted lottery that prioritizes low-income families, that number is up to 18 percent. The goal is 40.
Reema Khrais / WUNC

Since the late 1990s, the racial diversity of North Carolina’s 158 charter schools has decreased with more institutions becoming predominantly white or predominantly minority.

In January, a draft of a state report on charter schools showed they were whiter and richer compared to traditional public schools. Advocates for charter schools say they offer an option for low-income families in low-performing schools. Opponents say they are slipping back into segregated systems.

classroom
David Schott / Flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow charter school organizations and charter management companies to take over the state's lowest performing schools.

Reema Khrais

In Durham’s Central Park School for Children, classrooms look and feel different than they did just a few years ago. Frankly, the charter school is not as upper-middle class or white as it used to be.

“There’s a greater diversity of viewpoints, there’s a greater diversity of perspectives,” Director John Heffernan explains.

teacher in a blur with classroom
Bart Everson / Flickr/Creative Commons

The State Board of Education has approved a policy that allows struggling charter schools to stay open if they are less than five years old.

Lt. Governor Dan Forest has asked the State Board of Education to delay the approval of an annual report on charter schools because he says he thinks the report is too negative.

The state board planned to approve the report this week in order to send it to the General Assembly before a January deadline.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

The State Board of Education meets Wednesday and Thursday this week, and charter schools occupy much of the agenda.

A picture of a family reading together.
Chiotsrun / flickr.com/photos/chiotsrun/4876331893

More new students enrolled in charter schools, home schools or private schools last school year in Wake County than in the traditional public school system.

Taken together, charters, home schools and private schools enrolled almost 3,600 new students last school year in Wake. Meanwhile, the public school system added around 2,000 new students--far fewer than predicted. Wake enrolled about 1,000 students fewer than projected in each of the last two school years.

Student, Classroom, school, class
Tom Woodward / Flickr Creative Commons

The Alamance-Burlington school system has asked the State Board of Education about giving one of its low-performing elementary schools the same freedoms given to charter schools.

classroom
Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

A K-12 charter school in Rutherford County is under fire from the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union after the school suspended all student club activities earlier this month.

Classroom
WUNC File Photo

A K-12 charter school in Rutherford County has suspended all club activities after parents voiced concern over the presence of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender club.

Flickr via Cynthia Ahrens / Flickr

Lawmakers pushed a bill through the Senate that would divert more money from school districts to charter schools.

Under current law, school districts have pots of funding they don’t have to share with charter schools. These pots include supplemental property tax revenues, as well as federal funding for providing school lunches and transportation, which most charters don’t provide.

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

North Carolina House representatives are introducing parts of their two year spending plan.

Education, Health and Human Services, transportation, and judicial appropriation committee meetings take place throughout Thursday as policy makers begin to digest parts of a $21 billion state spending plan.

A class at the Francine Delany New School.
http://fdnsc.net/

Charter schools are taking off in North Carolina. Approximately 50 new charter schools have been founded since 2011 when the legislature lifted the 100-school cap on the number of charter schools. Now, the State Board of Education is considering applications for 17 more. 

Classroom
WUNC File Photo

North Carolina lawmakers passed several education-related bills on Wednesday, just hours before their legislative “crossover” deadline. Most bills that do not involve money must pass either chamber by Thursday at midnight to have a greater chance of surviving the session. Education bills passed by either chamber include:  

Greater Penalty For Assaulting Teachers

J.B. Buxton
J.B. Buxton

    

J.B. Buxton began his career in education in an unlikely place: South Africa.

As a Morehead Scholar from UNC, Buxton taught in a South African school as apartheid began to crumble. The experience shaped Buxton's perspective on education and launched his long career in education policy.

He served as education advisor to Governor Easley and as Deputy State Superintendent of the North Carolina Schools. Buxton now leads the move for a charter school to serve Southeast Raleigh's neediest students.

a teacher in a classroom
Bart Everson / Flickr/Creative Commons

When North Carolina charter schools were first imagined in the mid 1990s, there were two big dreams: The first was to create something different, a sort of hotbed of innovation. The second was to take all of that new thinking – at least the stuff that worked – and share it with traditional public schools.

“But the second half of that never occurred,” said Jim Merrill, superintendent of Wake County Public Schools.

stack of money
Flickr user 401(K)2013

A failed charter school in Lenoir County mismanaged hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the state auditor’s office.

Kinston Charter Academy received more than $600,000 of state money two months before it closed, even though it had received several citations for fiscal mismanagement over the years.

The audit says the funds were inappropriately used to cover expenses from the previous year, instead of going toward other public schools that students transferred to after Kinston closed.

Fingers on a keyboard, computer,
Wikimedia Commons

The state is closer to opening two virtual charter schools. A special committee on Wednesday cleared two applications of proposed charter schools that would be operated by for-profit companies.

North Carolina Virtual Academy would be managed by K12 Inc., which has had student performance problems in other states, while N.C. Connections Academy would be affiliated with Connections Education.

On Wednesday, the state committee took turns firing off questions to the two eager applicants.

There was the biggest and most obvious question:

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