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A day after lengthy discussion about how a significant number of charter school applicants recommended to set up shop in North Carolina were moved forward along with significant reservations about their ability to accomplish their proposed missions, the State Board of Education voted Thursday to approve 12 out of the 18 charter school hopefuls to open in the Fall of 2016.

The State Board rejected outright two charter school applicants, even though the Charter School Advisory Board had recommended they open — albeit in very close votes.

Town Center Charter School, which had hoped to open in Gaston County, was rejected over concerns that its for-profit education management organization, ALS, Inc. has a poor record in other states and could be stretched too thin by operating several charters at once in North Carolina.

Charlotte Classical School, which had hoped to open in Mecklenburg County, was rejected over concerns about its educational plan and weaknesses in its budget proposal.

The State Board decided to delay votes on four charter school applicants, sending them back to the Charter School Advisory Board for further review and investigation.

The applications of two charter schools that would be managed by the Florida-based EMO Newpoint Education Partners—Cape Fear Preparatory (New Hanover) and Pine Springs Preparatory (Wake)—were kicked back to the CSAB so that they could further investigate allegations and charges of grade tampering and other abuses at some of their Florida charter schools. (For more background, click here.)

The State Board also sent back two other charter school applications to the CSAB for further inquiry and evaluation. Those applications were for Capital City Charter High School (Wake) and Unity Classical School (Mecklenburg).

The twelve charter schools that the State Board of Education approved to open in the fall of 2016 are:

Cardinal Charter Academy at Knightdale (Wake)
Central Wake Charter High School (Wake)
FernLeaf Community Charter School (Henderson)
Gateway Charter Academy (Guilford)
Kannapolis Charter Academy (Cabarrus)
Leadership Academy for Young Women (New Hanover)
Mallard Creek STEM Academy (Mecklenburg)
Matthews-Mint Hill Charter Academy (Mecklenburg)
Mooresville Charter Academy (Iredell)
Peak Charter Academy (Wake)
Union Day School (Union)
Union Preparatory Academy at Indian Trail (Union)

Depending on the outcome of the four delayed charter school applications, North Carolina could see as many as 178 charter schools in operation by 2016.

Commentary

A lot of people are justifiably outraged at the House budget provision that gives $1 million (and delegates public duties) to the conservative school privatization lobby group, Parents for Educational Freedom of North Carolina (PEFNC). As Rep. Rick Glazier — who tried to amend the budget to shift the money to fund teacher assistants — said yesterday (as reported by Raleigh’s News & Observer):

“This is the first time that I believe in the history of the legislature that we’ve done what this is asking. We’re giving $1 million of taxpayers’ money to an entity to then choose the charter schools to fund. … It is not our job to take away public funds and give them to a private entity to make public decisions.”

In addition to the idea of giving public money to a right-wing lobby group, however, the whole thing is rendered even more remarkable by the circumstances that surround PEFNC’s employment of its executive director, Darrell Allison. Mr Allison, who, according to his group’s website, directs a staff of five, including himself, brings home quite a handsome — even stunning — salary. As Lindsay Wagner reported in January in 2014:

“In 2010, Allison received $107,889 for his work running the non-profit; in 2012, Allison reported an income of $156,582—a 45 percent pay increase in just two years.”
A check of the PEFNC Form 990 tax return for 2013 reveals that his compensation for that year was $167,085. The 2014 report is not yet available. By way of comparison, Gov. Pat McCrory’s salary is $142,265 and State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson’s is $125,676.
News

WBTV reported Monday that thanks to a loophole in state law, dozens of school buses serving students at charter schools in the Charlotte area go uninspected, prompting serious safety concerns.

State law only requires that charter schools ensure transportation isn’t a barrier to a student attending their school. There is no requirement to offer transportation services.

Because of that, charter school administrators said, the state does not provide any money for transportation.

Public schools, on the other hand, are provided buses for student transportation to and from school. Those buses also come with state-supported maintenance. Along with that funding from the state come requirements that each public school bus be inspected every 30 days.

Unlike public schools, charter schools are not required to conduct any inspections on their buses and there are no standardized maintenance requirements. Despite that, NCDPI offers free courtesy inspections to all charter schools once a year.

In spite of the fact that courtesy inspections are provided, only two of the twelve charter schools in the Charlotte area offering transportation took the state up on its offer.

Records examined by WBTV show that Sugar Creek Charter School has had repeated issues with the safety of its school buses.

There are nearly 150 charter schools statewide, none of which are required to comply with any safety standards when it comes to busing students.

Read the full story from WBTV here.

News

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)