by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
Public interest in charter schools is higher than ever in North Carolina. A decade ago, about 41,000 students attended 99 charters in the state, but this year, an estimated 121,000 children will attend 200 charter schools – two of them exclusively online schools – as JLF’s Dr. Terry Stoops writes in his most recent research brief. However, not everyone acknowledges the benefits of this monumental growth in school choice. Dr. Stoops writes:
The future of public charter schools in North Carolina may depend on who controls the General Assembly and occupies Council of State offices. If you are a charter school parent like me or simply want to ensure that all families have plentiful educational options, it is critical that you consider candidates’ views of charter schools.
Fortunately, voters have access to that information thanks to a recent survey of candidates from the NC Association for Public Charter Schools (NCAPCS) and the NC Coalition for Charter Schools (NCCCS). Dr. Stoops explains:
Earlier this year, [NCAPCS and NCCCS] sent two-page questionnaires to candidates running for the General Assembly and Council of State offices. Overall, 112 candidates from five political parties submitted responses (available here and here) for a response rate of 31%.
Some candidates do not seem to agree on the basics of the charter school debate. Stoops writes:
Misconceptions transcended political party and ideology. Take, for example, the issue of what a charter school is. Charter schools are public schools… Of those who submitted responses to the survey, 92 agreed that charter schools are public schools, but 17 Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians said that charters are not public schools, and three Democratic candidates were unsure…
Policy preferences vary as well.
Currently, charter schools do not receive facilities funding, but 79 respondents believe that they should. Six Democrats and one Republican believe that state lawmakers should reinstate a cap on the number of charter schools that can operate statewide.