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As this editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer makes clear this morning, the supposed purposes of North Carolina’s charter school movement — i.e. to be “laboratories of innovation” that will spur improvements in the traditional school system –  are increasingly being shown to be what critics have long contended: fraudulent.

More and more, charters are becoming the system that anti-integration advocates tried to create back in the 1960′s and 70′s — a segregated and exclusive, publicly-funded alternative school system.  To quote the editorial (which focuses on a new charter built immediately adjacent to an exclusive gated community in Harnett County):

“As they were being brought into the public system in the mid 1990s, the idea was that they would be laboratories, experimenting with curricula and teaching methods in ways that perhaps could help conventional schools. Unfortunately, charters now are seen by too many as private schools that get public money.

They’re not. But more are starting to look that way even if they’re not yet behind private gates.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

 

Members of the Charter School Advisory Board are meeting today to review charter school applications for 2015. Nine of the 71 applications that were submitted last December have been deemed incomplete by the board and will not move forward.

The nine charter school applications that won’t move forward are as follows:

Empowerment Academy Charter School (Vance County)
J.E. Graham Leadership Academy (Hoke County)
Kaleidoscope Art and Technology High School (Wake County)
T.E.A.M. D&K Academy (Mecklenburg County)
Russell Lee Jones Charter High School (Mecklenburg County)
Antonio Academy (Durham County)
James Madison Academy (Wake County)
Pinnacle of Durham Charter School (Durham County)
Ridgeview Charter School (Gaston County)

Francis Deluca, president of the Civitas Institute, would have been on the board of the proposed James Madison Academy, which did not make it past today’s review.

Final approval for charter schools wishing to open in 2015 will come no later than January 15, 2015.

Last week, the State Board of Education approved 26 charter schools to open this fall.

Yesterday, the State Board of Education approved 26 new charter schools to open this fall – including South Brunswick Charter School, the fourth charter school to open under the management of Baker A. Mitchell, Jr.

Mitchell has collected in the neighborhood of $16 million in taxpayer funds over the past five years for managing three other charter schools in southeastern N.C. Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Pruden is locked in a battle with Mitchell, hoping to convince State Board of Ed members to scrutinize his management practices and hold off awarding him more charters to open up schools.

Pressley Baird of the Star News reports that two of Mitchell’s charter schools are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General.

Charter Day School in Leland and Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, operated by Mitchell’s Roger Bacon Academy, are both under investigation–but the USDOE would not provide details at this time.

Pruden theorizes that the investigation has to do with improper enrollment practices. Boosting enrollment numbers would direct more state funding to Mitchell’s charter schools.

“According to information Brunswick County Schools received, the basis of the alleged investigation was that Charter Day School … used improper means to encourage homeschooled and private school students to enroll during the first few days of school to increase the average daily membership,” Pruden wrote in a letter he sent to the State Board of Education.

Mitchell says he has no knowledge of an investigation.

Read Baird’s full story here.

ICYMI, Brunswick County Public Schools official Jessica Swencki has a great essay in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in which she explains what’s really driving a large and growing segment of the charter school movement: private, for-profit companies out to milk the public coffers.

“In North Carolina, charter schools are operated by ‘nonprofit’ corporations, which are not subject to the same laws that demand public accountability for state and local tax dollars. These ‘nonprofit’ corporations can be subsidiaries of larger for-profit corporations – all the nonprofit corporation needs is a ‘board’ of purportedly earnest, well-intentioned people during the application process. Once the charter is granted, there is very little to stop the potential exploitation of our state’s limited public education resources.

In fact, one doesn’t have to look any further than the Eastern part of the state for a case study in how savvy companies use this loosely regulated system to pocket millions of taxpayer dollars.

Click here to read the rest of Swencki’s explanation of how this scam works.

Moody’s Investment Services, one of the nation’s major bond credit rating businesses, put out a report this week warning that dramatic growth of charter schools can undermine the financial footing of public school districts.

The report found that urban school districts already on shaky financial terms are most at risk of a downgrade in credit ratings from a sudden surge in charter school enrollment.

From a news release about the report:

The dramatic rise in charter school enrollments over the past decade is likely to create negative credit pressure on school districts in economically weak urban areas, says Moody’s Investors Service in a new report. Charter schools tend to proliferate in areas where school districts already show a degree of underlying economic and demographic stress, says Moody’s in the report “Charter Schools Pose Growing Risks for Urban Public Schools.”

“While the vast majority of traditional public districts are managing through the rise of charter schools without a negative credit impact, a small but growing number face financial stress due to the movement of students to charters,” says Michael D’Arcy, one of two authors of the report.

Charter schools can pull students and revenues away from districts faster than the districts can reduce their costs, says Moody’s. As some of these districts trim costs to balance out declining revenues, cuts in programs and services will further drive students to seek alternative institutions including charter schools.

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