Here’s an interesting bit of news that traveled under the radar during this week’s tense State Board of Education meeting, largely because Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Mark Johnson gave his first formal remarks to the board.
According to The Charlotte Observer‘s Ann Doss Helms, a Florida-based charter chain serving struggling students is balking on an earlier pledge to only hire licensed teachers.
State laws allow a host of privileges for charter schools, one being that just 50 percent of a charter’s teaching staff needs to be licensed by the state. In traditional public schools, all teachers must be licensed.
According to the paper, Accelerated Learning Solutions—a for-profit company operating two dropout prevention schools in Charlotte and one in Wake County—told the state it would certify all of its teachers when applying for state money. But now they’re reportedly asking for the State Board of Education to relax those requirements.
From The Charlotte Observer:
Now ALS, a for-profit company that specializes in dropout prevention and recovery, is asking North Carolina to revise the agreement and allow up to half the teachers to be unlicensed. The schools in question – Stewart Creek and Commonwealth high schools in Charlotte and Central Wake High in Raleigh – all offer flexible schedules for 16- to 21-year-olds who are trying to finish high school.
The change, if approved by the Board of Education next month, would put the ALS schools on the same footing as other charter schools in North Carolina, which requires only that 50 percent be licensed.
“Obviously this is a difficult population to serve, so finding teachers is a little difficult,” Dave Machado, director of North Carolina’s Office of Charter Schools, told the state Board of Education this week. He said the chain has brought in some teachers from Florida who aren’t yet licensed in North Carolina.
Machado said the two Charlotte schools, which opened in 2014 and 2015, have been able to get licensed teachers for 60 to 80 percent of their jobs. Central Wake just opened this school year, and Machado said he didn’t have numbers for that school.
There does, however, seem to be some dispute from the charter school about how their new request came about.
From the paper:
But in an email response to an Observer query Thursday evening, ALS Executive Principal Thomas Hanley said the information Machado provided is inaccurate.
“100 percent of the teachers employed by Commonwealth, Stewart Creek and Central Wake are licensed and highly qualified,” Hanley wrote. “The request is being made to the State Board to adjust our charter to comply with teacher licensure requirements for charter schools.”
ALS applied to enter the Charlotte market in 2013. “All (100%) of the classroom teachers at the School will hold a valid North Carolina teaching license,” the charter application said, saying that was a key strategy for meeting the needs of potential and returning dropouts.
That promise became part of the charter, or legal agreement, between the state and ALS. Machado told the board that the schools haven’t been able to find enough licensed teachers, so they’re now out of compliance with their charter even though they’re in compliance with charter-school law.
But Hanley said the charter revision is on the table only because “if there is a vacancy for a period of time” the schools would fall out of compliance with the charter, which “was the unintended consequence of our current status.”
The state board isn’t expected to make a decision on ALS’ request until next month.