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charterschoolsMembers of the State Board of Education were presented Wednesday with the latest crop of charter school applicants that hope to open up shop in North Carolina in fall 2016 — but the director of the state’s charter school office offered words of caution to State Board members about several of the prospective schools.

“There are some [applicants] I need to bring to your attention specifically,” said Dr. Joel Medley, Director of the NC Office of Charter Schools, about several schools that were green-lighted by reviewers in close votes over concerns they may not have the capacity to carry out their missions or have questionable track records in other states.

One of the 18 applicants, Capital City Charter School (Wake County), was recommended as a “delayed decision” by the Charter School Advisory Council (the body tasked with reviewing charter school applications) thanks to concerns about the ability of the school’s education management organization (EMO) to provide services. Their recommendation would have the State Board delay its  final vote on the school’s application until next January, which is not typical.

Capital City’s EMO, Accelerated Learning Solutions, Inc. (ALS, Inc.), also plans to open Town Center Charter High School in Gaston County in 2016, which was recommended by the advisory board, but barely—reviewers voted 6-5 in favor of opening the school in 2016. With that application, reviewers also cited concerns about the EMO’s ability to supervise all of the schools ALS, Inc. is planning to open and whether they have the capacity to manage them all.

The company also plans to open Central Wake Charter High School in 2016, which received a more favorable recommendation by the advisory board with a vote of 10-1.

ALS, Inc., which currently operates one charter school in Charlotte and was supposed to open another last fall but was unable to do so thanks to problems finding a facility, also operates 23 alternative high schools focusing on drop-out recovery in seven school districts across the state of Florida, according to a due diligence report provided at Wednesday’s State Board meeting and compiled by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

According to that report, ALS, Inc., which is owned by another organization that previously ran alternative schools sometimes characterized as “prison-lite,” has come under intense scrutiny for unrealistic enrollment projections and poor academic progress of its students. Read More

News

The state Board of Education holds its monthly meeting in Greenville Wednesday where members are expected to discuss giving an additional 17 charter schools preliminary approval to open in 2016.

This latest expansion comes on the heels of a new study by scholars at Duke University that finds that the rapid growth of charter schools across North Carolina has led to a growing segregation by race.

helen-ladd_1Dr. Helen Ladd, one of the co-authors of the study, discussed the findings and implications last weekend in a radio interview with NC Policy Watch’s Chris Fitzsimon. Click below to hear the full segment:

http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/News-and-Views-for-5-03-2015-SEGMENT-TWO-FULL.mp3

Schools recommended by the NC Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB) to receive their preliminary charter include:
1.  Cape Fear Preparatory Academy — New Hanover County
2.  Cardinal Charter Academy at Knightdale — Wake County
3.  Central Wake Charter High School — Wake County
4.  Charlotte Classical School — Mecklenburg County
5.  FernLeaf Community Charter School — Henderson County
6.  Gateway Charter Academy — Guilford County
7.  Kannapolis Charter Academy — Cabarrus County
8.  Leadership Academy for Young Women — New Hanover County
9.  Mallard Creek STEM Academy — Mecklenburg County
10.  Matthews-Mint Hill Charter Academy — Mecklenburg County
11.  Mooresville Charter Academy — Iredell County
12.  Peak Charter Academy — Wake County
13.  Pine Springs Preparatory Academy — Wake County
14.  Town Center Charter High School — Gaston County
15.  Union Day School — Union County
16.  Union Preparatory Academy at Indian Trail — Union County
17.  Unity Classical School — Mecklenburg County

There are currently 146 charter schools operating across North Carolina. The proposed charter schools being recommended by the CSAB are slated to open in the 2016-17 scholastic year.

Source: NC Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB)

Source: NC Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB)

 

News

Charter schools could soon receive more public funds thanks to a measure moving through the General Assembly that would siphon dollars away from traditional public schools to charters’ coffers.lw-501

A provision in Senate bill 456 would not only force public school districts to share as much as an additional $11 million worth of their sales tax revenue with charter schools, which are also public schools but function independently of local school boards and are not beholden to the same accountability measures —the bill would also require districts to create an additional layer of administrative bureaucracy in their accounting practices. Read More

Commentary

Be sure to check out the #1 trending story on the Washington Post this morning — it’s entitled “White parents in North Carolina are using charter schools to secede from the education system.”

After detailing the battle over charters and the promise that even many progressives see in them, the article notes:

“The most recent cautionary tale comes from North Carolina, where professors at Duke have traced a troubling trend of resegregation since the first charters opened in 1997. They contend that North Carolina’s charter schools have become a way for white parents to secede from the public school system, as they once did to escape racial integration orders.

‘They appear pretty clearly to be a way for white students to get out of more racially integrated schools,’ said economics professor Helen Ladd, one of the authors of the draft report released Monday.

Charter schools in North Carolina tend to be either overwhelmingly black or overwhelmingly white—in contrast to traditional public schools, which are more evenly mixed.”

And this is the summary from the new report that Ladd authored along with Professors Charles Clotfelter and John Holbein, “The Growing Segmentation of the Charter School Sector in North Carolina”: Read More

News

Hats off to the Charlotte Observer’s Andrew Dunn, who published a series of stories this weekend about how for-profit education management organizations that operate charter schools in North Carolina are allowed to keep secret, to some extent, how they spend taxpayer dollars — and how that reality can ultimately contribute to the abuse of public money.

From Dunn’s story:

Six private charter school management firms currently oversee millions in state dollars for public education in North Carolina.

The structure of these schools has benefits. The financial backing a company provides offers stability, and management organizations bring refined curriculums and training programs, said Eddie Goodall, executive director of the Charlotte-based North Carolina Public Charter Schools Association. They also often have strong records of academic performance.

But other states with longer charter school track records have had problems. In many cases, the lack of transparency at their management companies has made it more difficult to detect issues. Among the examples:

  • The founder of Bay City Academy in Michigan was convicted of three counts last month related to tax fraud for shuffling money intended for the charter school through his management business and personal accounts to avoid taxes.
  • A charter school in Washington, D.C., had its charter revoked in Februaryafter authorities accused it of improperly shifting public money to the management company. D.C. charter school officials said they had a hard time obtaining financial records from the company. Earlier, D.C. officials had accused another management company of receiving exorbitantly high prices for services at several charter schools.
  • In New York, the Office of the State Comptroller sought to get informationfrom National Heritage Academies after saying state officials couldn’t determine how $10 million in taxpayer money was being used. The company refused to provide full financial reports. New York no longer allows new charter schools to contract with for-profit companies.

“Transparency is a serious issue,” said Gary Miron, a professor at Western Michigan University who has studied charter schools extensively. In Michigan, nearly 80 percent of charter schools are run by for-profit management companies. “Transparency laws would help, but they must invade the proprietary space of (management companies) because of the public need to know.”

Dunn also highlights six management companies’ disclosure practices, management fees and executive pay rates in his story.

Next year, for example, Cabarrus Charter School will for over $800,000+ in taxpayer dollars in management fees to its parent company, Charter Schools USA.

Last week, Governor Pat McCrory and Charter Schools USA CEO Jonathan Hage toured one of the company’s three charter schools, Cardinal Charter Academy in Cary. Senator Jerry Tillman is sponsoring a bill this year that would make it easier for national for-profit charter school management organizations to expand their presence in the state going forward.

Click below to read all of Dunn’s stories on for-profit charter school management firms.