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UPDATE: State board members voted to not renew the charters for PACE Academy and Coastal Academy, meaning the schools will close at the end of the school year. The board’s decision can be appealed to an administrative court.

The State Board of Education decided today to not renew support for  today whether a handful of charter schools up for renewal should continue to operate, including charter schools in Carrboro and Morehead City that have been flagged by state education staff as problematic.

Staff from Office of Charter Schools are recommending that the state board terminate charters held by the Coastal Academy for Technology and Science (formerly known as Cape Lookout Marine Science High School) in Morehead City and PACE Academy in Carrboro.

“Both schools had patterns of noncompliance, low academic performance, and concerns related to the financial sustainability of each school,” DPI staff wrote in materials provided to state board members. “The nonrenewal votes of the CSAB were unanimous in both instances.”

The state board is expected to make its decision later this morning. (UPDATE: The state board voted late Thursday morning to not renew the school’s contracts.)

To find out what happens, you can listen to audio of the meeting here, read public documents about the renewal process here  or follow N.C. Policy Watch education reporter Lindsay Wagner, who is at the meeting, on Twitter here.

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As this editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer makes clear this morning, the supposed purposes of North Carolina’s charter school movement — i.e. to be “laboratories of innovation” that will spur improvements in the traditional school system —  are increasingly being shown to be what critics have long contended: fraudulent.

More and more, charters are becoming the system that anti-integration advocates tried to create back in the 1960’s and 70’s — a segregated and exclusive, publicly-funded alternative school system.  To quote the editorial (which focuses on a new charter built immediately adjacent to an exclusive gated community in Harnett County):

“As they were being brought into the public system in the mid 1990s, the idea was that they would be laboratories, experimenting with curricula and teaching methods in ways that perhaps could help conventional schools. Unfortunately, charters now are seen by too many as private schools that get public money.

They’re not. But more are starting to look that way even if they’re not yet behind private gates.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

 

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Members of the Charter School Advisory Board are meeting today to review charter school applications for 2015. Nine of the 71 applications that were submitted last December have been deemed incomplete by the board and will not move forward.

The nine charter school applications that won’t move forward are as follows:

Empowerment Academy Charter School (Vance County)
J.E. Graham Leadership Academy (Hoke County)
Kaleidoscope Art and Technology High School (Wake County)
T.E.A.M. D&K Academy (Mecklenburg County)
Russell Lee Jones Charter High School (Mecklenburg County)
Antonio Academy (Durham County)
James Madison Academy (Wake County)
Pinnacle of Durham Charter School (Durham County)
Ridgeview Charter School (Gaston County)

Francis Deluca, president of the Civitas Institute, would have been on the board of the proposed James Madison Academy, which did not make it past today’s review.

Final approval for charter schools wishing to open in 2015 will come no later than January 15, 2015.

Last week, the State Board of Education approved 26 charter schools to open this fall.

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Yesterday, the State Board of Education approved 26 new charter schools to open this fall – including South Brunswick Charter School, the fourth charter school to open under the management of Baker A. Mitchell, Jr.

Mitchell has collected in the neighborhood of $16 million in taxpayer funds over the past five years for managing three other charter schools in southeastern N.C. Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Pruden is locked in a battle with Mitchell, hoping to convince State Board of Ed members to scrutinize his management practices and hold off awarding him more charters to open up schools.

Pressley Baird of the Star News reports that two of Mitchell’s charter schools are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General.

Charter Day School in Leland and Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, operated by Mitchell’s Roger Bacon Academy, are both under investigation–but the USDOE would not provide details at this time.

Pruden theorizes that the investigation has to do with improper enrollment practices. Boosting enrollment numbers would direct more state funding to Mitchell’s charter schools.

“According to information Brunswick County Schools received, the basis of the alleged investigation was that Charter Day School … used improper means to encourage homeschooled and private school students to enroll during the first few days of school to increase the average daily membership,” Pruden wrote in a letter he sent to the State Board of Education.

Mitchell says he has no knowledge of an investigation.

Read Baird’s full story here.

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ICYMI, Brunswick County Public Schools official Jessica Swencki has a great essay in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in which she explains what’s really driving a large and growing segment of the charter school movement: private, for-profit companies out to milk the public coffers.

“In North Carolina, charter schools are operated by ‘nonprofit’ corporations, which are not subject to the same laws that demand public accountability for state and local tax dollars. These ‘nonprofit’ corporations can be subsidiaries of larger for-profit corporations – all the nonprofit corporation needs is a ‘board’ of purportedly earnest, well-intentioned people during the application process. Once the charter is granted, there is very little to stop the potential exploitation of our state’s limited public education resources.

In fact, one doesn’t have to look any further than the Eastern part of the state for a case study in how savvy companies use this loosely regulated system to pocket millions of taxpayer dollars.

Click here to read the rest of Swencki’s explanation of how this scam works.