Bill would change oversight of charter schools in North Carolina (with correction)

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.

 

5 Comments

  1. david esmay

    March 15, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    The ALEC inspired privatization and re-segregation of public schools has begun, with tax payers footing the bill.

  2. cooldela

    March 16, 2013 at 5:36 am

    Amazing how we can be so ardent in our support for freedom of choice except when it comes to public schools. Do you reckon the public schools are afraid of competition?

  3. emma

    March 16, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Privatization is Pirate-ization, they’re going plunder and pillage until only the smoking ruins remain.

  4. bigbill

    March 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I am amazed to have just learned that the North Carolina Self Help Credit Union, an otherwise progressive organization with a great reputation, has as part of it’s business lending mission making business loans to charter schools here and around the country. See this link:

    http://www.self-help.org/business/loans-credit/charter-school-loans.html

    I would hope that they would rethink this policy. Every time a charter school is created in North Carolina taxpayers’ funds that would otherwise support traditional public schools are diverted to charters and the for-profit charter school companies, law firms, real estate firms, and other for-profit entities that assist them.

  5. bigbill

    March 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Paul Thomas of Furman University, a progressive professor of education, makes the great point that “school reform” and especially the dramatic increase in charter schools have resulted not in narrowing the racial and poverty equity gap but in perpetrating it. He reports that charter schools in particular contribute to the overall increase in the re-segregation of schools in America. Here is a link to his blog on that subject:

    http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/current-education-reform-perpetuating-not-curbing-inequity/

    Therefore, I would hope that the folks at Self Help Credit Union would re-think their mission to make business loans to non-profit charter schools which are, as Professor Thomas says, increasing school re-segregation while at the same time designed to funnel taxpayer funds away from traditional public schools and into the hands of the for-profit private companies who financially benefit from the charter school movement. These would include the for-profit charter school companies, law firms, real estate companies, the whole broad constellation of individuals and companies who stand to make tens of millions from the increase in newly created charter schools they revolve around in North Carolina. This is not about “school choice.” It’s about for-profit companies and individuals getting their hands on the trillions of taxpayers’ education funds spent each year.