House committee approves charter school growth, enrollment 'perks' for charter partners
Posted April 24
Raleigh, N.C. — The House K-12 Education Committee approved several charter school bills Monday, including one that would allow faster growth and another that would give children of charter school business partners enrollment priority.
House Bill 779 would allow North Carolina charter schools to grow by 30 percent without an additional performance review by the state. Any school seeking to grow more than 30 percent would have to be reviewed. The current law sets the bar at 20 percent. Lawmakers initially proposed allowing schools to grow by 40 percent but lowered the threshold to 30.
Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, warned that the bill would allow increased growth at all charter schools, including the failing ones.
"Let's be clear, this is loosening the standards on charter school growth," Meyer said. "They're only accountable if they want to grow more than 30 percent."
Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, said the increase in growth is needed to help children on waiting lists get into charter schools.
"Parents are making the decision. They are the true judge," Brody said. "We’re providing an opportunity."
Also Monday, lawmakers discussed House Bill 800, which proposes several changes to charter school law. The most debated portion was a provision that would allow children of charter school business partners to get "enrollment priority" for up to 50 percent of the school's total enrollment.
Any business that donates the charter school's land or school building, has done major renovations to the school or made other capital improvements, including major investments in technology, would get enrollment priority for its employees' children.
Rep. John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, said the provision will help businesses.
"I'm an employer, and I'm always trying to figure out perks for my employees," Bradford said. "The employees will be happy. Their kids will be in good schools."
Meyer said it was "just a step too far" from the public aspect of public charter schools.
"This provision really creates a new type of school that we haven’t had in North Carolina before. It creates a company school (and) blocks off 50 percent of the seats for kids of people who work there," he said.
Rep. Amos Quick, D-Guilford, had another concern.
"Companies could get tax incentives to locate to areas and tax incentives to build a school. … Is that not double-dipping?" Quick asked.
The education committee approved two other charter school bills: