Charter Schools

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."

A bill that would lift the current limit of one hundred charter schools in North Carolina has tentatively passed the state House.

The bill would allow the addition of up to fifty charter schools every year. It has been the subject of hours of debate, discussion and even compromise in committees. But lawmakers were still wrangling over the bill on the House floor yesterday. House Majority Leader Paul Stam told the body he was growing impatient.

State senators have tentatively approved a bill that would eliminate North Carolina's current cap on charter schools. The schools receive public money, but they function independently of local districts. Right now only one hundred charters are allowed to operate in the state at any given time. Democrats introduced a number of amendments on the Senate floor they said would help more at-risk children attend charters. But they were outvoted by the Republican majority.

Democrat Gladys Robinson is from Greensboro:

For years, advocates of charter schools have pressed legislators to pass a law that would allow more charters to operate in North Carolina. The schools receive public money, but they function independently of local districts. Right now only one hundred of them are allowed to operate at any given time in the state. But the new Republican-controlled legislature is likely to eliminate that limit completely. And that would make some charter school advocates very happy.

The State Legislature is making good on its promise to change laws that govern charter schools. But some public school advocates say the current bill is too far-reaching.

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