A bill moving through the General Assembly would award $2 million over two years to Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) to help expand the number of charter schools throughout the state.
Sponsored by Reps. Bryan (R-Mecklenburg), Brockman (D-Guilford) and B. Brown (R-Pitt), HB 535, “Promoting Charter School Success Pilot” would also allow participating schools to have greater flexibility in expanding their enrollments. Funds can support up to four charter schools each year and PEFNC can make initial planning grants of up to $250,000.
PEFNC is a private, pro-school privatization organization headed by Darrell Allison that is perhaps best known for promoting school vouchers. The organization has received millions of dollars from the Walton Family Foundation (owners of Wal-Mart) over the past several years. The Waltons are known for supporting education initiatives such as vouchers, charter schools and other privatization measures.
Allison’s group has been the beneficiary of similar legislation filed in past years. In 2013, lawmakers proposed giving PEFNC $1 million over two years to develop charter schools in rural parts of the state, but that measure did not pass. A similar bill was filed last year too, but also did not survive.
The 2013 legislation also required PEFNC to match state funds; no such provision appears in the 2015 bill.
Charter schools continue to receive considerable attention and support in the state legislature, years after the 100-school cap was lifted in 2011.
Senator Jerry Tillman is sponsoring a bill that would make it easier for national for-profit charter school management firms to expand their presence in North Carolina.
Meanwhile, other lawmakers are concerned about the lack of transparency employed by charter school operators, which are wholly funded with taxpayer dollars yet are able to hide how they spend their money. For more on that, click here.