Raleigh, N.C. — A state House Committee on Thursday refused to remove a key restriction on public funding for charter schools.
Since North Carolina first authorized charter schools in the 1990s, they have faced certain restrictions. Although they are public schools, charters are managed by nonprofit boards. They receive tax money linked to the daily costs of educating students, but the charter school law doesn't transfer money for capital needs, such as buying property or constructing buildings.
House Bill 761 would give counties the option of putting local tax dollars toward the capital costs of a local charter school.
"This bill has the potential to save taxpayers money and give county commissioners another tool that they can use or not use," Rep. Larry Yarborough, R-Person, told the House Local Government Committee.
Yarborough argued that, by helping charters build, counties could alleviate the need to build new public schools.
Counties that invested in a charter school's physical plant would have a lien on the property, Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, said, meaning that the county could get at least some of its money back if the school went bankrupt.
Rep. James Langdon, R-Johnston, asked Stam about counties that had more than one charter school within their borders.
"If you give money to one, how are you going to keep the others off of you?" Langdon said, suggesting that it could open the door to claims of favoritism in the use of public funds.
"It might be a political problem if they pick and choose. ... It's not a constitutional problem," Stam said.
Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, said she embraced charter schools as a way to experiment with new ways of education, but she said the state has given charters more privileges over the past several years.
"I feel like we've been on this slippery slope of allowing charter schools dip in and check in and check out without any sort of accountability," Fisher said.
When committee Chairman Carl Ford, R-Rowan, called for a vote, the measure failed 7-12.