Just a heads up if you plan to silently protest anything at a committee hearing in the General Assembly.
You can’t. Well, you can, but you might be threatened with arrest.
SB 337, NC Public Charter School Board, was discussed once again in a Senate Education Committee hearing this morning. As mentioned last week, SB 337 is a bill filed by Senators Jerry Tillman and Dan Soucek that is intended to remove oversight of public charter schools from the State Board of Education and put it in the hands of a new, independent entity comprising members handpicked by the Governor.
Last week there was an opportunity for public comment on the bill, but not today. Tillman explained that he had consulted with all stakeholders in drafting the bill and all who wanted to be at the table were included in the process.
Some members of the public expressed their frustration with Tillman’s decision to not allow public comment. Several citizens stood in the back of the room, waiting to speak. As it became clear there would be no opportunity for them to do so, two women tied scarves around their mouths.
The silent protestors were escorted from the committee meeting by the Sergeant-at-Arms. Patty Williams, who was with the group, said that the citizens were threatened with arrest.
Last week, Senator Stein put forward amendments to address the issue that charter schools are not a real choice for low income families–which were to be addressed today. Stein’s amendments did not appear before the committee and he was absent this morning.
Instead, Senator Hartsell put forward an amendment that would keep most of the bill in place but also allow for the old application system to remain in force. That would mean charters could still submit applications to the State Board of Education, LEAs, local boards of education, universities, and, a new addition, community colleges.
Hartsell’s amendment did not pass.
Sen. Bryant raised the issue, as she did last week, about conflicts of interest, asking Tillman if he envisions this board having appointees who have a direct interest in having charter schools. Tillman countered with the fact that since she has no problem with how people are appointed to the State Board of Education, and that she should then trust this appointment process as well.
Sen. Allran put forward an amendment requiring charter schools to conduct criminal background checks on their employees. Tillman forcibly opposed the idea, saying that charter schools and public schools do this anyway, are “credible institutions” and he was not in favor of imposing such a mandate.
Allran’s amendment failed.
SB 337 passed through committee.