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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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During a presentation about how to position North Carolina as a global leader in education to Governor Pat McCrory’s education cabinet members today, new gubernatorial education advisor Eric Guckian called for an aggressive K-12 charter school environment in the state.

Today’s meeting was the second of McCrory’s recently-formed education cabinet, which is tasked with developing concrete policies to improve education in North Carolina and ultimately promoting those policies to the 2014 legislative session.

Guckian, a Teach for America alum and former director of the New Leaders program in Charlotte,laid out his own vision for the state’s education system, in which he called for North Carolina to become the “education leader of the world.” Read More

An advocacy group behind a controversial push to bring private schools vouchers to North Carolina would benefit from a new initiative to  encourage charter school growth in North Carolina’s rural counties.

The House’s latest budget proposal, revealed Sunday night and available here, seeks to give Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina nearly $1 million over the next two years to encourage public charter schools to open up in rural areas of the state.

No such provision existed in the Senate version or  Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget.

PEFNC has largely been known in the state for its backing of a tax credit scholarship program which would allow taxpayer dollars to fund scholarships for low-income children to attend private and religious schools. The House budget also funds that proposal and would divert more than $50 million from public schools to the private educational market over the next two years, according to House budget documents.

PEFNC’s “public charter school accelerator” program seeks in increase the number of charter schools, which are public schools funded by taxpayers but operate outside the traditional public schools system. Supporters of charter schools say the charter school model allows families more educational choices while avoiding the bureaucracy that mires many public schools while critics say the schools are less diverse than traditional public schools and drains public schools of needed resources.

The $1 million proposed in the House budget ($464,000 each year) would allow PEFNC to issue $100,000 grants to schools but is limited to counties that have lagged behind the state in student achievement (where less than 65 percent of a county’s students have passed end-of grade or end-of course tests). It’s not immediately clear how many counties in the state meet those criteria.

It also requires PEFNC to match the state funding with outside grants.

PEFNC and DPI officials did not immediately return calls for comment.

The House budget also included several cuts that will affect the rural (and non-rural) public schools, including cuts to teacher’s assistant funding by $53 million over the next two years and the elimination of pay bonuses for new teachers with master’s degrees.

At a round table discussion for reporters and policymakers, hosted today by the University of North Carolina’s journalism school, new State Board of Education chair William Cobey expressed his discontent with the state of teacher pay in North Carolina.

“I want our teachers to be paid better and I want the best public school system we could possibly have,” said Cobey. “But we have to get a handle on Medicaid. It limits our choices.”

Cobey, recently appointed to his post by Gov. Pat McCrory, also pointed to reducing North Carolinians’ tax burdens and improving the state’s unemployment rate, which is the 5th highest in the nation, as additional ways to increase investment in public education.

Today’s discussion coincided with the release of the House budget proposal, which includes provisions for a school voucher program that would siphon $50 million from public schools over the next two years.

“My personal view is I’m for it,” Cobey said about vouchers. “Over time, you will save tax dollars for having a voucher system. There is a net savings.” Cobey said that he and NC State Superintendent of Schools, June Atkinson, disagree on the voucher program, saying that she has a problem with the accountability aspect of the program. Read More