See below for note about correction in earlier version of post.
A legislative proposal backed away from requiring the state’s charter schools are under state public record and open meetings laws.
The Charlotte Observer reported today that a Senate education committee moved Thursday to reject earlier endorsements of open government provisions in the charter school law, rules that the publicly-funded schools currently have to follow but are not codified. Charter schools are public schools that are run outside of traditional school districts by private, nonprofit boards but given authorization by the appointed members of the State Board of Education.
State law (N.C. GS 115-288.29A addresses charter schools) does not currently state that charter schools are subject to open meeting and public record laws, but the State Board of Education, which drafts rules for charter schools, has made it a requirement as part of their authorization process.
The proposed Senate legislation offered by state Sen. Jerry Tillman does not appear to immediately change that arrangement, but could potentially open the door for revisions by the state board or legislature in the future.
From today’s Charlotte Observer article:
A bill introduced last month, which focuses mainly on an appeals process for applicants rejected by a screening panel, specified that charter schools face the same disclosure requirements and privacy protections as traditional public schools. It was sponsored by Sens. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, and Bill Cook, R-Beaufort.
However, a substitute version was introduced Wednesday in the Senate education committee, which Tillman chairs. The substitute would “remove the provision that the charter school and its board of directors are subject to the public records and open meetings laws,” according to a document distributed at the meeting.
The N.C. Press Association is monitoring the bill, the Observer reported.
North Carolina taxpayers sent $304.7 million in state money to the schools this year, with additional funds drawn down from federal education funds and local school boards.
State law does not currently specify that the publicly-funded schools are subject to both the state’s public records and open meeting laws, but the State Board, in agreements with charter schools, have made it a requirement. That means parents, reporters or others with interest in the charter school currently have the right to examine financial and operational details about the schools and attend board meetings.
Public records frequently offer insight into the operation of schools that aren’t readily disclosed. An investigation last year from Raleigh television station WRAL investigation into perks included in contracts held by the 115 state school superintendents prompted the Granville County school board to reexamine how top school employees received large pay raises without the school board’s knowledge.
N.C. Policy Watch used public records laws last year to obtain documents about Quality Education Academy, a Winston-Salem charter school that recruits basketball players from around the world to play and attend a school paid for by North Carolina taxpayers.
Note: An initial version of this post misstated the current law regarding public records and charter schools. The law does not specifically address the requirement, but the State Board of Education has made it a requirement in the agreements schools have with the state board.