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?
- 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,
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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
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advocate for economic liberty. Cost is $5.00. Register online at http://www.nccivitas.org/events or
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
- The College Preparatory and Leadership Academy of High Point
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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Tuesday, Mar. 13th, 2012 at 7:30 PM
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Saturday, Mar. 17th, 2012 at 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
A Citizens' Constitutional Workshop in Morehead City, NC
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?"