The struggling charter school Entrepreneur High School has shut its doors, leaving dozens of students scrambling to find new schools to finish out the academic year.

Tim Markley, New Hanover schools superintendent and a reviewer of Entrepreneur’s application, told N.C. Policy Watch he didn’t think the school should have opened.

“The application [for Entrepreneur] came forward two years in a row and I voted against it twice. The entire board turned it down the first time,” said Markley, who previously served on the N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Council.

“Honestly, I thought the financials were’t there,” said Markley. “Their plan for implementing a vocational program wasn’t there. The plan included a lot of vocational teachers, but didn’t exhibit an understanding of the business side of running a school. I was critical of it both times.”

Markley’s assessment was overruled by two other advisory council members who decided to allow Entrepreneur to open, even though they also expressed reservations about the financial and academic plans of the school that can be read in the school’s application here.

Entrepreneur High School is a vocational public charter school that had hoped to enroll 180 students in its first year. But it only attracted 78 students to start with last September, said the head of the N.C. Office of Charter Schools, Dr. Joel Medley. By January, only 31 students were attending classes.

Those low enrollment numbers — and the fact that the school continued to lose students throughout the fall — left the school in dire financial straits.

Speaking of Dr. Hans Plotseneder, the founder of the school who was fired by its board just before Christmas, Markley said, “he had a lot of passion for the school, but he didn’t have the wherewithal to start a school.”

Andrew Dunn of the Charlotte Observer reported today that Plotseneder plans to reopen the school with a combination of state funds he believes he can secure next month, loans, and a plan to sublease part of the school’s building. His hopes to have a charter management organization (CMO) take over the school eventually.



Education 1If you care at all about the actions of the  North Carolina General Assembly, your “must read” for this morning on the first day of the 2015 legislative session should be this excellent overview of what’s on the table and at stake in the world of public education by NC Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner.

Wagner’s report summarizes the situation when it comes to funding, teacher pay, testing, vouchers, charters, grading, textbooks and multiple other key issues. Here’s the intro:

“As members of the North Carolina General Assembly make their way back to Raleigh this week for the 2015 legislative session, many have education at the top of their agendas—which is no surprise given that the lion’s share of the state budget is devoted to public schools.

After years of frozen salaries, the busy 2014 session saw large pay bumps for beginning teachers and relatively small raises for veteran teachers—but those raises came at the expense of teacher assistants and classroom supplies as well as cuts to other critical areas of education spending.

The salary increases also came with a promise of even more raises to come in 2015.

But as North Carolina faces a year in which some predict tax cuts will lead to inadequate state revenues that leave lawmakers with little choice but to rob Peter to pay Paul, what can we expect for our public schools?”

Click here to find out.


Yes, you read the headline right: Charlotte faces another crisis as its third charter school in less than a year –Entrepreneur High School — faces potential closure thanks to low enrollment and financial woes.

The Charlotte Observer’s Andrew Dunn has the run down on what’s happening at Entrepreneur. Here’s the takeaway:

  • The school has only $14 remaining in its bank account;
  • Enrollment is at 30 students, far below the anticipated 180 and statutorily required 65;
  • The school owes more than $275,000 back to the state;
  • The school’s board has removed its founder and principal, Hans Plotseneder, and is looking to a management company to take over the school; and
  • The State Board of Education will make a final decision on the school’s fate in March; however, it’s likely that the school will not be able to make their payroll liabilities between now and then.

What’s also fascinating, as Dunn points out in his story, is that the NC Charter School Advisory Board found serious inadequacies with Entrepreneur’s application, yet approved the school to open anyway. It’s a pattern I’ve observed with schools that have quickly run into problems and have had to shut down.

Looking at the scoring rubric that NCSAB members used to evaluate Entrepreneur’s application, many categories were deemed inadequate by at least one reviewer and many serious questions were posed. Below is a sampling of those questions put forth by reviewers–and it’s unclear if they were ever properly answered during the in-person interview because details of those interviews are not put in writing for the record.

  • Why just the minimum 1/2 of teachers licensed? — Jennie Adams
  • Realistically how many students will have their own laptop or tablet if from the lower income levels that they quote in the statistics? — Jennie Adams 
  • I have concerns about the proposed pay plan and would like more details. I am not sure it will attract the quality candidates needed to make this program work. —Tim Markley
  • RE: Financial Plan — There is not enough money allocated for remediation. School states that it will attract
    highly qualified staff but there are no benefits or salary that match that. There is a parttime
    financial secretary, but who is doing the day-to-day book keeping? — Summary review comments

Check out Entrepreneur’s application with comments from reviewers here.


Berger_Jr.-and-Sr.There’s a degree of irony in the “surrender of charter” letter submitted recently by the charter school started by former Rockingham County D.A., failed congressional candidate, new Administrative Law Judge and son of State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, Phil Berger, Jr.

In the letter, the school’s current chairman, David Whicker, complains that “the lack of availability and/or provisioning of fiscal resources and assistance from the NC Board of Education and/or Office of Charter Schools, other than training courses, seemed only to multiply the challenges we already faced.”

In other words, it’s the same story heard so often in the murky world of school privatization: A group of folks who railed against “government schools” and who demand “choice” and the right to be unshackled from all those burdensome rules (like having to serve anyone who comes in the door — whatever their level of preparedness — and  providing free transportation and free meals to a large proportion of their students) finds out that running a successful school without a lot of bureaucratic support ain’t as easy as it looks.

Like demanding children, these folks want complete freedom to do as they please and the right to have Mom and Dad bail them out when they discover that the grown up world isn’t as easy to negotiate as they thought.

The sad thing about all this, of course, is that it’s actual children — the ones whose parents get sold a bill of goods by charter operators who are actually in over their heads — who end up suffering. Them, plus the traditional schools, of course, who will, as always, have to take in the kids left out in the cold.

Happily, in this case, Berger Jr.’s charter never really got up and running and the damage will apparently be minimal. Unfortunately, this has frequently not been the case — both here in North Carolina and around the country — for the scores of charters that have crashed and burned in the middle of school years.

The takeaway: The “genius of the market” is great when things are going good, but not so hot when things turn sour. And therein lies one of the biggest problems with charters and school privatization.


K12, Inc.It may be 10 days before Christmas, but there are still a lot of worrisome/controversial policy decisions taking shape in the halls of state government this week. As noted in this morning’s Weekly Briefing, a state legislative committee will meet this Friday to recommend rolling back some important consumer protections in the mortgage lending industry.

Now, comes word that a special committee appointed by the State Board of Education will be meeting tomorrow to interview two private, for-profit companies seeking to run virtual charter schools in North Carolina — at least one of which (K12, Inc.) has been shown on numerous occasions to be a predatory failure. As Bloomberg Business Week reported last month:

“K12 Inc. (LRN) was heralded as the next revolution in schooling. Billionaire Michael Milken backed it, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush praised it. Now the online education pioneer is failing to live up to its promise.

Plagued by subpar test scores, the largest operator of online public schools in the U.S. has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled in April that students can no longer count credits from 24 K12 high schools toward athletic scholarships.”

Of course, K12, Inc. isn’t an unknown to the State Board of Ed. To its credit, the Board has been holding the troubled company and its whole scam at bay for years. Unfortunately, K12, Inc. lobbyists prevailed upon the privatizers at the General Assembly to slip a provision into the state budget bill this past summer which directs the Board to approve two virtual charters as part of a “pilot” program. Now, low and behold, there are only two applicants for those slots.

Whether this means that the State Board will roll over and approve K-12, Inc. or show some backbone and tell the company and its buddies in the legislature to stuff it remains to be seen. Let’s hope for the latter eventuality.

Lest you have any doubts about the appropriateness of such a response, Read More