Note: This post has been changed from its original form to reflect a correction regarding how the bill addresses funding of charter schools.
A bill introduced Thursday would take oversight of public charter schools away from the N.C. State Board of Education and put them under a newly created charter oversight board.
The new legislation, Senate Bill 337, revives several of the controversial proposal trotted out in 2010, including changing the oversight provisions.
The new bill was introduced by state Sens. Dan Soucek and Jerry Tillman, the two Republican co-chairs of the Senate Education and Education Appropriations committees.
Charter schools are schools that receive public education money, but are run outside of the traditional public school system by non-profit boards. When Republican took over control of the state legislature following the 2010 elections, an existing cap of 100 charter schools for the state was removed, leading to a surge of interest for the schools.
Supporters of the schools say they offer needed choices to families, and allow for more innovative teaching methods than traditional public schools can offer. Public school advocates have said charter schools stand to drain existing school system of needed resources, with the potential of creating a two-tier system of public education in the state.
The bill filed Thursday would take away oversight from the State Board of Education, which oversees K-12 public education in the state, and establish a N.C. Public Charter School Board to monitor and approve charter schools in the state. Members would largely come from appointees from new Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican legislative leaders, whereas the majority of the State Board of Education were appointed during the Democratic administrations.
Here are some of the changes proposed in the bill:
- Members of the new charter school board would consist of the state Treasurer (Democrat Janet Cowell); lieutenant Governor (Republican Dan Forest); three members selected by the government (McCrory); three from Senate leader (Republican Phil Berger) and three from the Speaker of the House (Republican Thom Tillis).
- It does away with requirement that 75 percent of elementary and 50 percent of high school teachers have certification and does not allow a local education board to offer information about how the charter school’s affect the existing public school system.
- It waters down the existing law that requires schools to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the surrounding area. The existing call requires that schools “shall” reflect the composition of the surrounding communities, but Tillman’s bill proposes that schools “shall make efforts to” do that.
- Creates an avenue for failing charter schools to be taken over by a new entity, instead of being shut down or not renew a charter
- Creates a timeline for school districts to report to charter schools how much school districts receive from local expenses, state public schools and capital outlay funds.
The legislation, of course, is bound to change along the way.
Correction: This post erroneously reported that the proposed bill would entitle charter schools to capital building funds. It does not, but does create a timeline for schools districts to inform charter schools about their funding schemes. We regret the error.