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After uproar, North Carolina charter board considers process revisions

Charter schoolsThis summer, charter backers were in an uproar after members of the State Board of Education (SBE) turned down 20 of a possible 28 prospective charter applications, including five that had been approved by the Charter School Advisory Board, an appointed panel that counsels the SBE on applications.

It seemed a major shift in the vetting process for a board that had approved dozens of new schools since the state’s cap on charters was lifted in 2011, although a number of those schools have shuttered in the years since.

At one point, a member of the Charter School Advisory Board even referred to members of the SBE as “soulless SOBs” over the vote, a comment for which he later apologized.

This week, members of the charter board will consider a more muted response to that controversy, although the implications are significant. Members are planning to consider a policy revision Thursday which would allow charter applicants denied by the SBE to return to the charter advisory board for further review.

Charter supporters have openly criticized a process that currently requires schools to begin the application process anew after denial by the SBE, something that could delay a charter’s opening by months or years.

Per the new policy recommendation from the charter board, which would also would set a timeline for the revised process:

1. Prior to denying any charter school application that received a majority vote to approve by the CSAB, the SBE will return the application to the CSAB for further review before denial on second reading.

2. The CSAB shall complete its recommendations to the SBE on charter school applications by its April meeting each year. The CSAB will present its recommendations to the SBE at the May SBE meeting for discussion. The SBE will approve or deny all charter school applications by its June meeting each year, except those applications returned to the CSAB for further consideration under part one of this recommendation, which the SBE will approve or deny by its August meeting each year.

However, the recommendation on the table Thursday bypasses an earlier call that any charters with majority approval by the charter board be shuttled to the SBE’s consent agenda, a designation usually fit for “non-controversial” items that do not require discussion. That recommendation was seemingly shot down by at least one state board member months ago.

Any policy change would, of course, require approval from the State Board of Education as well. Check back for updates tomorrow.

The charter panel will also hear updates on a number of new applicants for charter openings. See the board’s full agenda here. 

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