Raleigh, N.C. — Charter schools and all other publicly funded schools would be overseen by two different boards under a bill that cleared the state Senate Tuesday.
The bill also adjusts other provisions of the state's charter law, including a requirement that school districts lease would-be charter schools unused property.
"Parents want a choice," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph. "When you have a choice, the free market works, and then parents will select schools that best meet their needs, whether they be charter public schools or whether they be public schools themselves."
Charter schools are funded by public tax dollars but managed by a volunteer boards rather than school districts.
Democrats attempted to amend the measure several times. One change offered by Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, would have required charter schools to provide transportation and food for students who would qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch.
"We have to be able to make sure every kid can get to school, and when they're there, they are not hungry," Stein said. He noted that Tillman helped him draft the amendment.
Tillman acknowledged he worked with Stein.
"I did help Sen. Stein write this amendment," Tillman said. "I'm not a very good amendment writer," he added, garnering chuckles.
Tillman asked senators to vote down the change, saying it would be "a burden" on charter schools.
That comment drew criticism from Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, who said not providing transportation and meal services to poor children would exclude some students.
"The only conclusion one can draw is they do not want these disenfranchised children in their schools," Nesbitt said.
Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, said the transportation requirement would ask charter school to transport students over longer distances that traditional public schools would have to.
That amendment was turned back, as was another that would have required members of the new charter school governing board avoid and disclose potential conflicts, particularly if they have a financial interest in running a charter school.
Tillman said he wanted people with an interest in charter schools on the board.
"I want these people to be tremendously interested in charter schools," Tillman said.
The measure now goes to the state House.