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Feb. 28th, 2012: - johnlocke.org Manage Subscriptions

State Board of Education response to charter growth
By Dr. Terry Stoops

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Later this week, the State Board of Education (SBE) will determine the fate of nine "fast-track" charter schools. The state's Public Charter School Advisory Council (PCSAC) thoroughly vetted each school, and if approved, the new schools will begin operation in the fall.

But school district officials and advocacy groups complain that a few of the proposed charter schools will have a disparate impact on the district in which it resides. How will the SBE respond?

Bulletin Board

  • Join the Civitas Institute on March 2 and 3 at the Marriot Hotel, Crabtree Valley in Raleigh for Conservative Leadership Conference 2012: Battleground North Carolina. This highly anticipated conference will train, prepare, and motivate the citizens of North Carolina with experts from some of the nation's most respected conservative organizations. Confirmed speakers include Charles Krauthammer of Fox News, Jason Lewis of the Jason Lewis Show, and Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute. To register visit https://www.battlegroundnc.org/register or call 919-834-2099.

  • Attend the Civitas Institute's Free Market Academy on Saturday, March 10, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Elizabeth City, NC. This workshop is inspired by Henry Hazlitt's classic book -- described by F.A. Hayek as "a brilliant performance" -- and explores several overlooked economic truths missing from today's economic debates. Essential for newcomers to economics and also serves as a great refresher for those already familiar with the subject. This discussion will better equip you to win debates on the economy and be a more persuasive advocate for economic liberty. Cost is $5.00. Register online at http://www.nccivitas.org/events or call 919-834-2099.

  • The John Locke Foundation is sponsoring a Citizen's Constitutional Workshop on Saturday, March 17, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Joslyn Hall, Carteret Community College, in Morehead City, NC. Historian Dr. Troy Kickler and political science expert Dr. Michael Sanera will discuss "What would the Federalists and Anti-federalists say about the current political and economic crises?" The cost is $5.00 per participant, lunch not included. Pre-registration is strongly suggested. For more information or to sign up for the event, visit the Events section of the John Locke Foundation website.

  • The North Carolina History Project would like educators and homeschool parents to submit lesson plans suitable for middle and high school courses in North Carolina history. Please provide links to NC History Project encyclopedia articles and other primary and secondary source material, if possible. Go to the NC History Project website for further information.

  • Leap into JLF's research newsletter archive.


Since passage of North Carolina's charter school legislation about fifteen years ago, the State Board of Education (SBE) has maintained responsibility for approving public charter school applications. To assist them in this effort, charter school legislation passed last year established a charter school advisory council, a group of appointed volunteers who possess expertise in public school administration and management. This week, the SBE will determine if nine schools approved by the members of the Public Charter School Advisory Council (PCSAC) should receive charters. These so-called "fast-track" charters, the first group of applicants that the PCSAC recommended for state approval, would allow these nine schools to begin operation in the fall.

Politically, this vote is significant for the SBE. During last year's debate over charter school legislation (Senate Bill 8), some charter advocates urged lawmakers to establish an autonomous commission with the power to approve and oversee charters, largely independent of the SBE and the Department of Public Instruction. These advocates feared that state officials would invent ways to inhibit the growth of charter schools in North Carolina. Specifically, they claimed that rapid charter expansion spurred by passage of SB 8, which removed the cap of 100 charter schools and eased growth restrictions on existing schools, would provide cover for state education officials to use existing policy-making authority to place arbitrary restrictions on charter growth.

In the end, lawmakers compromised. The SBE would continue to serve as the final charter school authorizer, but a charter school council consisting of members appointed by the governor and the legislature would inform the SBE's decision. Senate Bill 8 passed overwhelmingly and became law. The creation of the PCSAC soon followed.

To ensure that approved schools would have sufficient time to prepare for a 2012 opening, the members of the newly created PCSAC worked diligently over the last few months to assess 27 applications for "fast-track" charters. The council recommended that nine of the prospective charter schools receive SBE approval for a charter.

During the PCSAC review process, school district officials began to complain that the addition of one or more charter schools in their county would compromise the district's ability to provide a sound, basic education to students remaining in district schools. Other districts, most notably Chapel Hill/Carrboro and Durham, argued that the addition of charter schools would promote racial segregation, albeit the former worries about "black flight" and the latter predicts "white flight." Interestingly, the Wake County Public School System did not release an official statement about the prospect of hosting the 14th charter school in the county.

Disagreement between the PCSAC and school districts creates quite a predicament for the SBE. A vote for or against one of the contested charter schools would signal that the opinion of one group outweighs the opinion of the other. If the SBE denies a charter to a school recommended by the PCSAC, charter advocates would contend that the vote is evidence that the state needs an independent charter school commission.

Some charter advocates believe that the SBE will offer a "compromise" plan. This plan would impose an arbitrary cap on the number of charter schools and/or seats that may be established in a given county. In this way, the SBE would approve the PCSAC recommendations but promise school districts that they will keep future charter school growth in check.

If something akin to this plan is in the works, the SBE should be prepared for a backlash from charter advocates and, more importantly, parents. Parental demand for charter school seats remains strong. I have been told, for example, that yesterday's Community School of Davidson lottery had 746 applications for 25 kindergarten spots. An arbitrary prohibition on charter school expansion in Mecklenburg County and beyond would not sit well with the thousands of parents who have children still on wait lists.

Furthermore, the rumored "compromise" would, once again, favor one type of public school (district) over another (charter). As I have said many times before, the SBE should work hard to treat all regular public schools -- district and charter -- as equals. Substantive policies and rules passed by the SBE should apply to both of them or none of them. Protecting one type of public school at the expense of another falls far short of that responsibility.

Random Thought

2012 is a leap year!

Facts and Stats

The following is a list of fast-track charter school applicants approved by the Public Charter School Advisory Council and awaiting approval by the State Board of Education:

  • Bear Grass Charter School (Martin County)
  • Cornerstone Charter Academy (Guilford County)
  • Corvian Community School (Mecklenburg County)
  • North East Carolina Preparatory (Edgecombe County)
  • Research Triangle High School (Durham County)
  • The Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter Academy (Orange County)
  • The College Preparatory and Leadership Academy of High Point (Guilford County)
  • Triangle Math and Science Academy (Wake County)
  • Water's Edge Village School (Currituck County)


I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].

Education Acronym of the Week

PCSAC -- Public Charter School Advisory Council

Quote of the Week

"We recognize that we are at an important step in the process for making quality charter schools an integral part of our public schools. Many voices were heard at the General Assembly during debate on this important legislation. Now that Senate Bill 8 is law, the State Board of Education will welcome those voices in our processes as well. We are eager to begin this next exciting chapter for North Carolina charter schools."
-- State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison, "Strengthening and Growing North Carolina Charter Schools," July 8, 2011.

Click here for the Education Update archive.


Upcoming Events

Monday, Mar. 5th, 2012 at 12:00 pm Noon
A meeting of the Shaftesbury Society
with our special guest Scott L. Silliman
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Monday, Mar. 12th, 2012 at 12:00 pm Noon
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"Ronald Reagan's Action Hero: The Story of John Carter, Warlord of Mars."

Tuesday, Mar. 13th, 2012 at 7:30 PM
2012 John William Pope Lecture
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"Making Sense of the New Middle East: The Dynamics and Their Implications for US Interests"

Saturday, Mar. 17th, 2012 at 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
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with our special guests Dr. Troy Kickler & Dr. Michael Sanera
Workshop #2 in Morehead City: "What would the Federalists and Anti-federalists say about the current political and economic crises?"

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