Education

State approval doesn't end battle over new charter schools

Posted February 29, 2012
Updated March 1, 2012

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— The State Board of Education voted Thursday to approve nine new charter schools, the first to be allowed to open after lawmakers lifted a 100-school cap on charters last year.

Twenty-seven groups had submitted so-called fast-track applications, which would allow them to open this fall, and the North Carolina Public Charter School Advisory Council helped officials whittle that field to nine proposals, including three in the Triangle.

Area public school officials have come out against two of the new charter schools – Research Triangle High School at RTP in Durham County and the Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School in Orange County – saying they would divert money from school districts.

The battle continued even after the state put its stamp of approval on the new schools.

"Now that the cap is off, there will be all kinds of interesting ideas and characters coming to North Carolina to try to get a grab at public money," said Natalie Beyer, a member of the Durham County Board of Education. "This charter isn't needed in Durham."

Officials with Durham Public Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have expressed concern that the charter schools will cherry-pick top students, leaving the district to bear the burden of handling students who live in poverty or don't speak English at home.

Pamela Blizzard, one of the founders of Research Triangle High, said such fears are unfounded, noting the school plans to accept numerous minority students.

"Our school became this flash point for the whole discussion of what charters should be doing, could be doing (and) are doing," Blizzard said. "I think it’s ironic that our school became that because ours is going to be one of the most diverse schools."

"Our school is open to all students whose parents want to send them," said Angela Lee, a board member of the Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School. "We will hopefully work closely with the district so that there is balance."

Cap off, nine new charter schools approved Cap off, nine new charter schools approved

Blizzard said she looks forward to working with public schools in Durham on projects.

"I think, when things die down, we can all sit down and have some wonderful conversations about collaboration," she said.

The school district wants to collaborate, Beyer said, adding that she wishes the charter school ideas could be applied within existing public schools.

"We’ve welcomed the founders of RTHS to come and meet with us and work within the innovative programs we have going on in Durham County schools," she said. "We have space. We have willingness to innovate. Let’s work together."

State board Chairman Bill Harrison said he's sensitive to the concerns of school districts, but the new charter schools meet the criteria for approval the state has established.

Harrison said he plans to ask the advisory council to design a more stringent framework for determining innovation and probability of success to rank charter school proposals.

"No cap means no cap, but it also doesn’t mean anything goes," he said.

Triangle Math and Science Academy in Wake County is the third area charter school. Local school leaders took no position on the school.

In addition to the three Triangle schools, the board approved the following charter schools: Bear Grass Charter School in Martin County, Cornerstone Charter Academy and High Point College Preparatory Academy in Guilford County, Corvian Community School in Mecklenburg County, North East Carolina Preparatory School in Edgecombe County and Water's Edge Village School in Currituck County.

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  • Plenty Coups Mar 2, 2012

    "I would like to see the compelling evidence that demonstrates we should continue to keep the Traditional Public Schools."

    LOL!!!! All one has to do is look back at the early 1800s with average lifespans of 50, the use of blood letting as a cure, and literacy rates of 60% before one realizes the value of educating the entire population.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 2, 2012

    kmengineer-"@plenty ccoups... you clearly have too much time on your hands with as many comments as you are making"

    Perhaps so. But then again, when people post lies, I'm not one who lets it go as a lie repeated often enough tends to get repeated as truth.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Mar 2, 2012

    Parents affect their child's education more than any school.

    By and large, the best schools have the most involved parents and the most prepared children. These children have a good, curious and receptive attitude instilled in them by their upbringing, in addition to the intellectual and other resources they need.

    Case 1: "There's not food for lunch for you today, Billy. Momma's gotta work at McDonald's, since your daddy is never coming back. Now, put on your old, dirty clothes and get on the school bus."

    Case 2: "Do you need help with your homework, Jane? Your father and I had these classes in college and can answer any questions anytime you need. Don't forget to take the healthy lunch I prepared. And, we'll talk about that SAT prep course I want you to go to. Be careful with your BMW at school today..."

  • davidbh61255 Mar 2, 2012

    Dps needs to educate youth instead of saying "not with MY money!!"

  • keitha Mar 2, 2012

    Public schools would have more money if charter schools were not allowed to also use the money. If they pay for themselves instead of taking money from the public schools, then I would not have a problem with them. But they dip into the public school budget.

  • bill0 Mar 2, 2012

    "The people fighting against charters are only interested in maintaining the current system. They lay claim they care about the students, but what they care about is the money flow to the system and nothing more."

    That is completely unfair. People can have different opinions about a topic without being somehow corrupt or evil. People who favor charters don't hate public schools and poor people and people who oppose charters aren't just slaves to a system.

    It is a legitimate position that allowing all the highly motivated parents to opt into charter schools will create a "brain drain" in public schools and cause an even bigger mess.

    Conversely, it is a legitimate position for a parent to take that they should do what is in the best interest of their own child and not worry about what everyone else does with their kids.

    The school system needs to balance both sides of that debate though.

  • kmengineer08 Mar 2, 2012

    @plenty ccoups... you clearly have too much time on your hands with as many comments as you are making. Perhaps you should direct your energy to something more productive then a comment war on here.

  • whatelseisnew Mar 2, 2012

    "but...but...I thought charter schools were the solution? Now all of a sudden comes the right wing excuses about why they actually don't do any better but we still need to go full steam ahead! Still waiting for evidence to support what you want to believe."

    I would like to see the compelling evidence that demonstrates we should continue to keep the Traditional Public Schools. There is no educational opportunity that is more costly than traditional public schools. The expense MIGHT be justified if the results were world class. As we know the results continues to sink ever lower. The people fighting against charters are only interested in maintaining the current system. They lay claim they care about the students, but what they care about is the money flow to the system and nothing more. It is an antiquated failing system that needs to go the way of the dinosaurs.

  • thewayitis Mar 1, 2012

    Yes, charters are needed in Durham. The poor quality of Durham's schools is the reason I homeschool. I had never intended to homeschool, but I felt I had no choice. I had to either homeschool, or accept an inferior education for my son. Private schools were not an option due to cost. Many charters and magnet schools can be difficult to get into, so having more options is a good thing.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 1, 2012

    "you conveniently ignore the fact that many charter schools, previously restricted, are "catch basins" for under performing students that the traditional public schools have used to increase their performance records that you so enthusiastically cite."

    ...but...but...I thought charter schools were the solution? Now all of a sudden comes the right wing excuses about why they actually don't do any better but we still need to go full steam ahead! Still waiting for evidence to support what you want to believe.

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