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N.C. State Board of Education “moving with deliberate speed” on achievement school districts

Rep.-Bryan-Achievement-Scho

N.C. Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg, is a chief proponent of the legislation.

Members of the State Board of Education indicated in a conference call Thursday that, given Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to approve a controversial bill authorizing a for-profit, charter takeover of five low-performing schools, they intend to move quickly in implementing the legislation’s reforms.

“We’re moving with deliberate speed here because there’s a lot to be done in a very short period of time,” said board Chairman Bill Cobey.

House Bill 1080, which was passed last week in the final days of the N.C. General Assembly session, directs the state to create an “achievement school district” containing five low-performing elementary schools from across North Carolina. Management of the schools, including hiring and firing powers, could be turned over from local school boards to for-profit charter operators.

Per the legislation, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican school-choice supporter who also sits on the State Board of Education, will chair and appoint an advisory committee to choose a superintendent for the special district. The bill’s timeline indicates the superintendent would tap qualifying schools by Nov. 15, and the State Board of Education would be expected to finalize those choices by Jan. 15.

Local school boards, following a public hearing, would have to decide whether to transfer the school into the district or close by March 1.

“We are on top of this and we’ll start the implementation process today,” Cobey said Thursday.

Supporters of the achievement school district say it’s an “innovative” solution for long-struggling schools. Opponents point out similar efforts have been met with lackluster results elsewhere. 

Meanwhile, Capitol Broadcasting Company, the Raleigh-based communications company best known for owning WRAL, joined critics in an editorial Friday calling for McCrory to veto the bill, arguing that House Bill 1080 is “less about making public schools work than giving opponents of public schools another tool for their assault.”

From the editorial:

When proponents of the legislation brought in experts from other states who’d tried the ideas outlined in the bill, they offered a clear message. Intentions were good, but the programs didn’t show any significant results. Our legislators should have listened.

This legislation is a thinly-veiled guise to give for-profit operators the opportunity to take over public schools. The last minute, ramrod Senate Education Committee hearing on the bill is more than adequate evidence this legislation is a deadly mix of a bad idea meeting even worse implementation. It is more than worthy of the governor’s veto stamp.

House Bill 1080 wasn’t the only contentious legislation Capitol Broadcasting urged the governor to veto Friday. The media group also called on McCrory to turn down the legislature’s approved budget, a controversial public records bill on policy body cameras, a hotly-opposed coal ash clean-up bill and voting legislation that critics say is aimed at helping the son of Senate President Phil Berger, R-Guilford, Rockingham, win a Court of Appeals race this fall.

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