A Google search of the phrase “Charter-like schools without charters” indicates that it is an invention of the North Carolina state government. They are a creative bunch, aren’t they?

Just to catch you up to speed. North Carolina applied for $470 million in federal “Race to the Top” funds, a program designed to reward states for innovative educational initiatives, including charter schools.

Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, spent several months warning state officials that charter school prohibitions or caps would put Race to their Top applications at a competitive disadvantage. Even so, North Carolina’s Democratic legislators blocked bills that would have raised or lifted the 100-school cap.

Instead, state education leaders and representatives from the state’s largest advocacy organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education, complaining about the emphasis on charter schools.

The letter is easy to summarize: “Yes, North Carolina caps charter schools and we like caps. Anyway, look at all these other fancy schools over here.” In response to the complaint, the feds relaxed, but did not eliminate, the charter school requirements in the final version of the guidelines for Race to the Top applications.

Thus, the phrase “Charter-like schools without charters” was born. The phrase suggest that, although North Carolina caps charter schools, we have other schools that are supposedly like charter schools except for the fact that they aren’t charter schools because, among other critical differences, they don’t have a damn charter.