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State Board of Education considers relaxed charter regulations mandated by legislature

Sen. Jerry Tillman led the push for relaxed charter regulations last year.

Members of the State Board of Education have little choice in the matter, but the board officially began consideration Wednesday of a pair of policies limiting charter school scrutiny and restricting the board’s power to shutter struggling charters.

Both policies were necessitated by the approval of Republican-led legislation last year authored by staunch charter school supporters.

House Bill 242 initially concerned white collar crime, but a state Senate rewrite pushed by Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Moore-Randolph, ordered a major revamp of North Carolina’s charter oversight regulations.

Members of the state board would no longer be able to close under-performing charters if the school is meeting academic growth goals or school leaders show they are following a “strategic improvement plan.” Critics warned the exception would impair the board’s ability to police charters.

The state law also jettisons the requirement that the State Board of Education examine charters for financial,  academic and governance problems twice during their 10-year charter, calling for just one review during that span.

A national, nonpartisan charter oversight agency warned state officials the new law would weaken charter quality and remove key enforcement powers from the state board.

Board members had nothing to say about the new policy Wednesday, although members publicly clashed with charter backers last year over accountability.

That conflict seemed to inform lawmakers’ controversial move in December to reassign oversight powers, including control of the state charter office, to newly-elected GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction. State board members are currently challenging that law in court. 

Board members are expected to vote on the new policies in March.

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