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Two bills that would significantly alter charter school policy in North Carolina were sent to conference committees in the House and Senate this week.

Senate Bill 337, which originally would have created an independent charter school board separate from the State Board of Education, failed a concurrence vote on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jerry Tillman, called for non-concurrence, citing changes the House made that needed some work.

After considerable opposition to SB 337 from education leaders that include State Superintendent June Atkinson and McCrory’s new chair of the State Board of Education, Bill Cobey, Sen. Tillman introduced a new version of the bill to House colleagues that nixed the idea of an independent board overseeing charter schools.

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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.

 

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The NC Public Charter Schools Association came out today in opposition to legislation the Senate passed last month that would create a new oversight board for charter schools.

SB 337, NC Public Charter School Board, would considerably weaken the State Board of Education’s authority over who receives approval to set up charter schools in the state.

Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Moore, Randolph) proposed the bill thanks to, in part, alleged dysfunction within the current Charter School Advisory Council, which currently approves or denies charter school applications and sets policy.

Most members of the proposed charter board would be handpicked by Gov. Pat McCrory.

New Chairman of the State Board of Education, Bill Cobey, has publicly opposed SB 337, declaring it unconstitutional.

In a statement released today, the charter school group explained that “a new charter body was not necessary given the anticipated fundamental shift in North Carolina’s political leadership, especially with a new constituency of the State Board of Education.” Read More

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In a joint session in the House chamber yesterday, six of Gov. McCrory’s picks to serve on the State Board of Education were confirmed by the General Assembly, including A.L. “Buddy” Collins, who was exposed for his history of opposing efforts to protect LGBT students against bullying.

Collins, who was seated in the gallery to accept his inevitable confirmation, watched the debate below as Rep. Luebke (D-Durham) brought forth an amendment to remove his name from the list of nominees. Luebke cited the bi-partisan school safety legislation before the assembly and said “Mr. Collins does not care about the safety of all young people.” Read More

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Just a heads up if you plan to silently protest anything at a committee hearing in the General Assembly.

You can’t. Well, you can, but you might be threatened with arrest.

SB 337, NC Public Charter School Board, was discussed once again in a Senate Education Committee hearing this morning.  As mentioned last week, SB 337 is a bill filed by Senators Jerry Tillman and Dan Soucek that is intended to remove oversight of public charter schools from the State Board of Education and put it in the hands of a new, independent entity comprising members handpicked by the Governor.

Last week there was an opportunity for public comment on the bill, but not today. Tillman explained that he had consulted with all stakeholders in drafting the bill and all who wanted to be at the table were included in the process.

Some members of the public expressed their frustration with Tillman’s decision to not allow public comment. Several citizens stood in the back of the room, waiting to speak. As it became clear there would be no opportunity for them to do so, two women tied scarves around their mouths.

The silent protestors were escorted from the committee meeting by the Sergeant-at-Arms. Patty Williams, who was with the group, said that the citizens were threatened with arrest. Read More