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State Board of Education weighs charter’s contract with former state legislator, charter advisor

Members of North Carolina’s State Board of Education are expected to discuss in open session Thursday one Charlotte charter’s ethically knotty contract with a new charter management organization led by a former state charter advisor, a former state lawmaker and a longtime school choice advocate.

As noted in a Charlotte Observer report in August, the group Achievement for All Children (AAC) is seeking a contract to run Aristotle Preparatory Academy, a K-5 charter that has struggled in its first years of operation.

According to its state report card, the school reported a “D” performance grade in 2016-2017, although it’s worth noting roughly 95 percent of the school’s students are considered “economically disadvantaged,” a population that tends to struggle academically.

Tony Helton

But the contract has spurred questions about Achievement for All Children’s close ties to state officials. Its leadership includes Tony Helton, CEO of the growing TeamCFA network and, until October, a member of the Charter School Advisory Board, a panel that counsels the state board on charter policy and applications.

Helton was still a member of the charter advisory board when AAC moved to ink a contract with Aristotle Prep this year, which already has a relationship with TeamCFA. And, according to The Observer, no other company was invited to bid for the role sought by AAC.

AAC’s leadership also includes former state Rep. Rob Bryan, a Charlotte school choice champion in the legislature until his defeat in last year’s election, as well as Darrell Allison, a member of the UNC Board of Governors who’s been a fixture in the state’s school choice movement in the last decade.

AAC, which formed this year, is also vying for a contract in the state’s controversial Innovative School District next year.

Board officials said they planned to talk over the contract in closed session Wednesday, but the matter would return for discussion Thursday.

Policy Watch will provide updates as they develop.

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