Citing myriad concerns, including applications apparently riddled with typos and questions about schools’ education plans, State Board of Education members this week denied all but eight of North Carolina’s 28 applications for new charter schools opening in 2017-2018.
The approved applications included two new charters in the Charlotte area, as well as schools in Wake, Durham, Johnston, Bladen, Gaston and Forsyth counties.
But, as listeners to Thursday’s meeting of the state board found out, members shared numerous concerns about the quality of applications and the potential for some schools to fail. Indeed, The Charlotte Observer’s Ann Doss Helms pointed out in a report Thursday that this week’s votes came after multiple charter schools recently failed shortly after opening.
Some applicants, such as Ridgeview Charter, which sought to open in Gaston County, prompted questions about their education plan. Another prospective charter, Kaleidoscope Charter High in Cary, was blasted by board members for typos in the application.
“I couldn’t give it my full vote of confidence,” board member Becky Taylor, who chairs the board’s charter school committee, said of Kaleidoscope Charter’s application.
Charter schools have been on the rise in North Carolina since state lawmakers lifted the 100-school cap in 2011. There will be 167 such charters in the state for the 2016-2017 school year.
Yet this week’s state board review was notable in that board members broke with the counsel of their Charter School Advisory Board in turning down multiple applications, as The Charlotte Observer pointed out.
From the Observer:
In a break with tradition, the Board of Education denied five applications that had won approval from the Charter School Advisory Board, which reviewed applications and interviewed board members earlier this year. Members of both boards voiced concern about schools that have opened and quickly failed, including three Charlotte schools that collapsed under academic and financial problems in their first year.
Alex Quigley of Durham, a charter school leader who chairs the advisory board, said he wasn’t sold on some of the applications that won the endorsement of his board. He said he believes it’s “very important that we have a high bar” in exchange for risking millions of dollars of public money.
“This appears to be a major change in state policy,” said Lee Teague, executive director of the N.C. Public Charter Schools Association. He said if the Board of Education overrides the advisory board’s recommendations it should give applicants a hearing.
The publicly-funded schools are offered more flexibility than traditional public schools and can draw students from outside of their local school district.
And, as Policy Watch has reported, charters and traditional public school advocates have been bickering for years over their portions of public funding.