Earlier this week, the Senate approved a bill that would create a fast-track process for successful charter schools wishing to replicate themselves and for charter chains wishing to expand their presence in the state.
The charter bill sponsored by Sens. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, and Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, would require the Board of Education to create a process for “fast track replication of high quality charter schools,” including those that are modeled on existing North Carolina schools and those that plan to contract with for-profit or nonprofit management companies that have a record of success in North Carolina. If the House approves the bill, the Board of Education must create the process by December.
The bill also would require the Board of Education to set up a process for successful charter schools to take over those that face closure for “inadequate performance.”
The pace of North Carolina’s charter school expansion and the role of out-of-state chains has sparked heated debate in recent weeks. After lifting the 100-school cap in 2011, the state Board of Education approved 23 new schools to open in 2013 and 27 to open in 2014 (two have since sought to delay a year).
The board has not yet voted on 2015-16 applications, but the state’s Charter School Advisory Board has endorsed only 12 of 71 applications. The advisory panel rejected most applications from out-of-state for-profit management groups such as Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies, both of which run schools in the Charlotte area.
Alan Hawkes, an advisory board member from Greensboro appointed by Senate leader Phil Berger, rebuked his colleagues, saying GOP leaders want to see “operators come into the state like they did in Louisiana and other states and quickly affect the public school choice landscape for the better and in quantity.” Hawkes is a board member of two Guilford County charter schools run by National Heritage Academies.
The House Education Committee will take up the Senate’s bill, which also clarifies the fact that public charter schools must comply with public records requests, this afternoon — 15 minutes after their floor session ends. Look for tweets from me at @LindsayWagnerNC and an update here on the blog.