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Charter school group says no thanks to charter school board

The NC Public Charter Schools Association came out today in opposition to legislation the Senate passed last month that would create a new oversight board for charter schools.

SB 337, NC Public Charter School Board, would considerably weaken the State Board of Education’s authority over who receives approval to set up charter schools in the state.

Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Moore, Randolph) proposed the bill thanks to, in part, alleged dysfunction within the current Charter School Advisory Council, which currently approves or denies charter school applications and sets policy.

Most members of the proposed charter board would be handpicked by Gov. Pat McCrory.

New Chairman of the State Board of Education, Bill Cobey, has publicly opposed SB 337, declaring it unconstitutional.

In a statement released today, the charter school group explained that “a new charter body was not necessary given the anticipated fundamental shift in North Carolina’s political leadership, especially with a new constituency of the State Board of Education.”

Eddie Goodall, executive director of the NC Public Charter Schools Association, told NC Policy watch that the creation of an independent oversight board was not broadly supported by his membership.

“The meat of the bill was not brought to us,” said Goodall. “We got a look at the bill in the beginning, but it was clear that decisions had already been made. By the time we were able to bring them feedback, the bill was drafted.”

The press release makes clear the charter group’s position that the Charter School Advisory Council is the best route for positive collaboration between the charter community and the traditional public schools.

“Our members feel that the charter movement can experience dynamic progress working within an environment that is now more complementary, versus creating a higher wall between our two types of public schools,” said the statement.

In 2011, a division formed within the charter school community. Goodall left the NC Alliance for Public Charter Schools to form the NC Public Charter Schools Association after he became concerned that some of the board members of the Alliance had serious conflicts of interest, owning companies that would profit from charter schools.

Goodall questions who wanted the bill in the first place. “Who asked for the new charter school board? We should have names,” he said.

Board Chair of the NC Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Baker Mitchell, has gone on record in the past for wanting no advisory board at all for charter schools. “Maybe Baker Mitchell wants a board that won’t pick and choose charter schools, just make sure that they pay a fee,” said Goodall.

The legislation, which passed the Senate in May, is now waiting for House approval.

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