Charter Schools

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.

North Carolina legislative building
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:

classroom
Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

  The State Board of Education on Thursday placed Charter Day School Inc. on “financial probationary status” for not turning over salary information of school employees to the Department of Public Instruction.

The state gave all 148 charter school operators until the end of September to provide salaries of school employees who are hired by for-profit companies.

Charter Day, which oversees four charter schools in the Wilmington area, was the only operator to not comply.

PACE ACADEMY
Reema Khrais

State officials have agreed to grant a three-year renewal to PACE Academy’s charter, months after the State Board of Education voted to terminate the Carrboro school’s charter.

WUNC reported on the status of the school earlier this year  in January and February

Classroom
WUNC File Photo

A Senate Education Committee has approved a bill that makes certain that charter schools are subject to the same public records and open meetings laws as traditional public schools.

The bill comes at a time when charter schools are thriving in North Carolina - 26 new schools are set to open in the fall.

Charter schools are run by private nonprofit boards, but get public money from the state. For that reason, lawmakers say charter schools should be bound by the same state public record laws as traditional schools.

Reema Khrais

When founders Jane Miller and Rhonda Franklin got the news that their charter school may not be around next year, they were overcome with the same feeling.

“Just utter shock,” says Franklin:

We were shocked because we know what has happened within these walls in the last 10 years. We know the growth of our students.

The state’s Charter School Advisory Board unanimously recommended to the State Board of Education that it reject PACE Academy's application for a renewal of its 10-year charter.

Maureen Joy Charter School
Leoneda Inge

There’s a section of East Durham undergoing major revitalization, and in the middle of it all is the oldest existing school building in the city.

But today, more than 100 years later, the old East Durham Graded School has been renovated in grand style.  The project is getting a lot of attention and economic developers and neighbors hope it’s the spark that will keep community revitalization going.

David Benbennick via wikimedia commons

  Next year, 26 new charter schools will open their doors to students in North Carolina. An additional 170 groups filed initial applications to open charter schools in 2015. The growth comes on the heels of legislature eliminating the 100 charter school cap and voting to form a new advisory board to consider charter school applications. Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC education reporter Dave Dewitt about the changes in the charter school movement and the ways the state regulates these independent institutions.

classroom
Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

The North Carolina Court of Appeals will hear arguments today in a case that pits a for-profit education company against the State Board of Education. At issue is how the board considered an online charter school application.

Arapahoe Charter School
Dave DeWitt

Arapahoe Charter School - and others across the state - will soon be able to grow by one grade per year without seeking approval from the State Board of Education.

Language was changed in HB 250 earlier this month that included the one-grade expansion provision without much warning. It cleared both the Senate and the House yesterday.

Arapahoe Charter School
Dave DeWitt

Charter schools in North Carolina may soon be able to expand without getting approval from the State Board of Education. 

Arapahoe Charter School
Dave DeWitt

This is a story about choice. And it starts in the lunch line at Arapahoe Charter School in Pamlico County when students choose between pizza and french fries.

And while that choice may seem easy to make, the choice to offer it is a little more complicated.

Charter schools aren’t required to offer meals, even to kids who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. But Arapahoe does – and sixty percent of the students here qualify.

NC Legislative Building
Dave DeWitt

Charter schools have been around in North Carolina for about a decade and a half, and for most of that time, the relationship between charters and traditional public schools has alternated between frosty and hostile.

“One of the fundamental reasons for introducing charter schools is to put an element of competition into the education arena and let parents make the choice,” says Baker Mitchell. Mitchell opened his first charter school in 2000 outside of Wilmington and a second six years later; he has a third opening this fall.

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The State Senate is scheduled to debate a bill tomorrow that creates a separate board to oversee the growing number of charter schools in North Carolina.

Senate Bill 337 has gone through several revisions since it was introduced by Republican lawmakers two months ago. One of the provisions in an earlier bill, for example, removed the requirement that charter school teachers be college graduates. That requirement has since been re-instated.

A controversial charter school that was approved to open its doors in Chapel Hill this fall has hit a road block. The managing company that was supposed to run the day-to-day operations of the Howard and Lillian Lee Charter School has pulled out.

National Heritage Academies, Inc. runs more than 70 charter schools across the country, including six in North Carolina. The Lee School would have been number seven, but NHA has backed out of the project.

School Bus in Durham, NC
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The State Board of Education has given final approval to 23 charter schools to open this fall.

Last year, 63 applicants began the process of applying to start a charter school, with an eye toward opening this fall. Twenty-five made it to this final round.

Seventy new charter schools have applied to become part of North Carolina’s growing population of alternative public schools. For the longest time, the number of charter schools in the state was capped at 100, but lawmakers changed that back in 2011.

Nine new charter schools have been approved by the State Board of Education. They were fast-tracked after the legislature eliminated the cap on charter schools last summer.

Dave DeWitt: All nine schools were eventually approved by the State Board of Education, after some discussion. Many of the questions raised came from State Treasurer Janet Cowell, who wondered, among other things, about the future bond ratings for school districts that lose students to charters.

But in the end, the separate votes on each school were mostly unanimous.

 Lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved a measure that would lift the cap on charter schools in the state. 

The legislation is the result of nearly two months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans. Democrat Joe Hackney is the House Minority Leader. 

Joe Hackney: "Many of us rebelled at many of the provisions of what I'll call the long version bill of earlier in the session. So for many on our side this bill comes as a relief."

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