Education

Ten new charter schools win approval, two on hold as WCPSS raises concerns

Concerns raised by Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) has led the State Board of Education to table two of 12 charter schools that sought state approval Thursday.

The board’s approval of the other 10 applications paved the way for them to open in 2020.

But applications submitted for Wake Preparatory Academy and North Raleigh Charter Academy were referred back to the state Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB), which had recommended approval of all 12 applications.

CSAB is expected to review the WCPSS concerns when it meets Monday.

SBE member Amy White said the board received “communication” from WCPSS that could be considered an “impact statement.”

“All of the communication, we received after the Charter School Advisory Board made its recommendation really should have been sent to the Charter School Advisory Board so it could review that material,” White said.

She said a policy provision allows SBE to send applications back to CSAB if there’s a chance it might be denied by SBE.

Normally, a school district would submit information detailing the negative impact charters might have on the district to CSAB before the advisory board makes its recommendation to SBE.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is a member of the SBE, said opponents of the two schools are engaging in “stall tactics.”

“Though they’ve been approved, we’re now punishing them because other people aren’t going through the proper procedures and processes,” Forest said. “I just want to make sure the charter community and everybody else that’s engaged in this feels like they’re being treated fairly through this process.”

Rhonda Dillingham, the executive director of North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools, watched intently and took notes as the SBE discussed the charter applications.

Afterward the meeting ended, Dillingham agreed with Forest that school districts ought to be required to follow procedures when making complaints against charter applications.

“Allowing comments from LEAs (Local Education Agencies or school districts) after the process has gone through, to me, appears to be a stall tactic,” Dillingham said. “In this case, it’s affected two schools. I think we need to take a second look at the process, and encourage the state board to not allow that to happen again.”

If all 12 schools do open, the number of charters in the state would climb to 196 including two online charters that are headquartered in Durham.

Nearly 110,000 students across the state attend charters, which is approximately 7.3 percent of the state’s 1.5 million school children.

The number of charters exploded after the Republican-led General Assembly lifted the state’s 100-school cap in 2011.

Critics contend charters siphon students and resources from traditional public schools and contribute to the re-segregation of North Carolina schools.

In March, State Sen. Dan Blue, (D-Wake County) called for a “recess” from granting charters until a joint legislative committee he wants to create can study their impacts on traditional public schools.

Blue is a primary sponsor of Senate Bill 247, which would establish the joint legislative study committee and place a moratorium on charter growth.

SB 247 was referred to the body’s Committee On Rules and Operations of Senate on March 14. Because it didn’t cross over to the House, the bill is essentially dead through 2020.

Public Schools First NC has also called for a cap on charters while the state exams student performance, fiscal management and how charter impact students, traditional public schools and taxpayers.

The 10 schools approved by the SBE are: CE Academy (Wake County); Wendell Falls Charter Academy (Wake County); Doral Academy (Wake County); Wilmington School of the Arts (New Hanover County); MINA Charter School of Lee County; Revolution Academy (Guilford County); Elaine Riddick (Perquimans County); Robert J. Brown Leadership Academy (Guilford County); Achievement Academy (Harnett County) and Alamance County School.

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