Despite opposition from the Big Education bureaucrats in our state, public charter schools are thriving. Nearly 150 now exist, with more in the pipeline. Sixty-seven thousand students are now being educated in charters. And what is key is that, if these students and their parents believe the school isn’t meeting their needs, they can leave. And if enough students and parents have that view, the school will be forced to close due to lack of demand. If only that were the case with traditional public schools.

So even though there is good news for charters, as the numbers show, there are also real threats. JLF’s Terry Stoops weighs in on whether the threats come from in his weekly newsletter.

First, the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) appears to be reluctant to recommend that the N.C. State Board of Education approve charter schools with certain characteristics. Earlier this year, the CSAB approved only 11 of the 71 applications for new charters, a significant drop from a year earlier.

According to some accounts, the motivation for rejecting charter applications had little to do with the quality of the proposals or the competence of those behind them. Rather, the CSAB appeared to reject applicants who planned to contract with charter management companies, which provide instructional, financial, and facilities services to schools that do not have the resources to support these functions on their own.

Second, the courts and public school advocacy groups have slowed the introduction of statewide virtual charter schools. Fortunately, the N.C. General Assembly passed a law this year that requires the State Board of Education to “establish a pilot program to authorize the operation of two virtual charter schools serving students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.”

Two applicants met the deadline, the North Carolina Virtual Academy and the North Carolina Connections Academy. Interestingly, the plain language of the law specifically directs the state to authorize two virtual charters. Barring any shenanigans, both applicants should receive approval from state education officials to begin offering coursework next year.

Third, the issue of charter school transparency has been in the news. Earlier this year, the North Carolina legislature approved language that outlined charter school requirements under the state’s public information law. The law only requires charter schools to provide “personnel records for those employees directly employed by the board of directors of the charter school.”

Yet, in an August 13, 2014 DPI memo, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, and subsequently media outlets and school districts, requested that charter schools relinquish all financial and personnel records, including all records from management companies contracted by the charter. The latter appears to go a step beyond the requirements of the law as written. Nearly all charter schools complied with the request — with one notable exception. Schools operated under The Roger Bacon Academy have refused to disclose financial information about the management company, prompting the N.C. State Board of Education to place those schools under double secret probation.