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The House bill that was modified at the last minute to allow charter schools to expand without having to gain State Board of Education approval passed the Senate floor yesterday, 34-11.

HB 250, which would have allowed charter schools to expand several grades at a time wihtout having to make a request to the State Board of Education, was amended before passage.

Sen. Norman Sanderson from Pamlico County put forth an amendment that would allow charters to expand at only one grade at a time. Sanderson’s amendment seemed to respond to considerable pressure from his constituents at home, who are concerned that the passage of the bill would spell disaster for their lone public high school.

This NC Policy Watch story reported that Arapahoe Charter School’s request to expand to a K-12 school was recently denied by the State Board of Education. The school’s director told NC Policy Watch that he decided to circumvent the appeal process by asking local lawmakers to find a legislative fix to allow the school to expand without State Board of Ed approval.

While Sanderson’s amendment appears to be a concession, it would in fact still allow Arapahoe Charter School to expand, one grade at a time, over the next three years. The public charter school currently offers grades K-9.

As outlined last week, the public high school in Pamlico County could be devastated by Arapahoe’s expansion.

Sen. Jerry Tillman also ran an amendment that effectively weakened the current requirement that public charter schools’ student populations must reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of their local district. The language in his amendment would instead allow charters to simply make efforts toward diversity.

The bill must be reconciled with the House before going to Gov. McCrory’s desk for his signature.

The bill that would allow charter schools to expand the grades they offer without prior approval from the State Board of Education will be on the Senate floor this afternoon. The bill has already passed the House.

HB 250, Charter School Enrollment and Charter Revisions, was originally intended to address only charter school enrollment procedures. Last week, NC Policy Watch reported that the director of Arapahoe Charter School, Tom McCarthy, decided to work with his local lawmakers, Sen. Norman Sanderson (R-Carteret, Craven, Pamlico) and Rep. Michael Speciale (R-Beaufort, Craven, Pamlico) to craft legislation that would allow his school to get around a State Board of Education decision to deny Arapahoe’s request to expand to a K-12 school. The resulting bill would allow all public charter schools to expand their offerings, within certain limits, without State Board of Ed approval.

At a Senate Education Committee hearing last week, lawmakers briefly debated the new language – language that the House never even saw – and offered a favorable report for the bill, even as Leanne Winner, director of governmental relations for the North Carolina School Boards Association, explained to the committee the devastating effect it would have on rural school districts.

“We already know that passing this provision would immediately threaten the very existence of Pamlico County’s lone public high school,” Winner told NC Policy Watch.

The law currently requires public charter schools to gain State Board of Education approval in order to expand their offerings. The requirement is in place to mitigate any potential adverse impacts on local school districts resulting from public charter school expansion.

Click here for more background on the Arapahoe Charter School and the bill that hits the Senate floor today.

The next time someone asks you how it is that North Carolina’s elected leaders are undermining the public education in our state (not to mention the basics of democratic governance), direct them to this morning’s lead story on the main NC Policy Watch site by Education Reporter, Lindsay Wagner. Here’s the lead:

For two years now, Arapahoe Charter School in Pamlico County has been fighting the State Board of Education for approval to expand from a K-8 school to a K-12 school. After the Board denied its request, Arapahoe appealed, and the case remains pending before the state Office of Administrative Hearings.

Rather than wait for that process to play out, however, Arapahoe’s director, Tom McCarthy, tried a different approach. Read More

A bill originally intended to address charter school enrollment priority for siblings was significantly changed yesterday to allow charter schools to expand without prior approval from the State Board of Education, as current law requires.

HB 250, to be heard on the Senate floor today at noon, would enable public charter schools to expand the grades they offer without needing prior approval from the State Board of Education, regardless of the impact on local public school districts.

A recent story by WUNC details how Arapahoe Charter School’s request for expansion would impact the lone high school in Pamlico County. Arapahoe’s expansion request was denied by the State Board of Education, possibly due to this compelling impact statement submitted by Pamlico County Schools, which explains the devastating effect the charter school’s expansion would have on their public schools.

Arapahoe has since appealed the State Board of Education’s denial for their expansion request, and their case is currently with the Office of Administrative Hearings.

If the bill passes today, Arapahoe Charter School would be able to expand despite the State Board of Education’s denial.

 

Yesterday, I wrote a story about the House Education Committee’s debate over SB 337, a bill that includes language allowing public charter schools to employ a higher percentage of uncertified teachers than current law allows.

In that story, I quoted Rep. Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) as having said, “In my county, public schools are doing a lousy job.”

Rep. Pittman emailed me to point out the fact that I misquoted him in my story. Upon review of audio made available late yesterday on voterradio.com, I realized that in fact I did not hear Rep. Pittman correctly and I misquoted him in my story. What Rep. Pittman actually said was:

“And I know in the case of my family, the public school’s doing a lousy job of teaching my kids.”

I apologized to Rep. Pittman and corrected my story to accurately reflect what he said.

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