Separate state board for charter schools debated

Posted March 27, 2013

— Public charter schools in North Carolina would be governed by an independent board and not the State Board of Education under a bill that a Senate committee examined Wednesday.

The Senate Education Committee didn't vote on Senate Bill 337 and will consider possible changes to make charter schools more accessible to low-income students before discussing it more next week.

Sponsor Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said that the Board of Education hasn't been fostering a collaborative atmosphere between public school districts and the growing number of charters.

"If you've got good ideas, in theory, you'd be sharing them with one another. In practice, you're not," Tillman said. "We've not had sharing of ideas of what's working in charter schools and public schools. ... We need a new cast of players."

Bill opponents said the new 12-member board, which replaces a charter school advisory board that is being dissolved as part of an overhaul of state boards and commissions, would create a dual system of education in the state and would be a waste of resources.

"It would create a negative climate of competition that would not benefit the children of North Carolina," said Carl Forsyth, managing director of Voyager Academy, a Durham charter school. "Charter schools work best within the overall structure of the school system."

Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Ed Pruden said money would be diverted to charter schools even if they don't provide the technical education avenue to graduation that Gov. Pat McCrory recently signed into law.

"At a time when state and local governments are challenged for resources and are attempting to be frugal with taxpayers' money, it seems unnecessary, redundant and wasteful to create a second board to oversee public schools."

Senate Education takes up new governing board for charter schools Senate Education takes up new governing board for charter schools

But Doug Hanes, the founder of Rocky Mount Preparatory, said his school and others chafe under state regulations and need the freedom a new board would offer to experiment with new ideas.

"We're really regulated in many ways just like other public schools," Hanes said. "It has become extremely difficult for us to innovate with things like teacher evaluations, certifications and other things to get greater accountability."

Other charter school advocates said the bill goes far enough.

Eddie Goodall, executive director of the North Carolina Public Charter Schools Association, said his members want to be able to share in state lottery proceeds and to allow county commissioners to fund charter schools.

In addition to independent governance, the bill calls for school districts to lease available space to charter schools for $1 a year and removes requirements for 75 percent of teachers in elementary grades and 50 percent in middle and high school grades to be licensed teachers.

Tillman said he knows of a pharmacist who wasn't allowed to teach a high school chemistry class and a physician being rejected for a health class because they weren't licensed teachers.

Opponents said, however, that allowing charters to hire people not trained as teachers would lower the standard of education in the schools.

Leigh Bordley, a member of the Durham County Board of Education, said lawmakers will soon consider a proposal by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger that strengthens teaching standards. Charter schools shouldn't have a separate standard, she said.

"Having excellent, highly qualified teachers in front of all of our children is key to the success of our schools," Bordley said. "Charter schools would be disadvantaged by this provision. Children in those schools deserve highly trained teachers, just as we have in the traditional public schools."


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  • truthman Mar 28, 2013

    "How in the world can you make it more accessible to low-income students?"

    Most low income students need transportation and free/reduced lunch, neither of which charter schools offer. This insures that most low income students cannot attend charter schools. White charter school parents will not admit publicly that is why they chose charter schools - to get away from "those kids". Nice little public/private gig, don't you think?

  • truthman Mar 28, 2013

    How in the world can you make it more accessible to low-income students? What they should drive to your house so you can fill out the application? Maybe all charter schools are not the same but my understanding is you fill out an application, there is a drawing (which is witnessed) and those students drawn get in. It really does not get more fair than that, you do not even have to pay to turn in the application.

  • Krimson Mar 28, 2013

    WWhatelseisnew: "It should not be that a Monopoly that has no accountability be the only entity that can be used by the people paying the bills."

    Its not a Monopoly. Its a public service. Do you rail against Police or Fire b/c they have monopolies on Public Security and Security? All three provide essential public services.

    And you are also welcome to pay out of your pocket to the many number of private schools which, since they are available, destroys any notion that the State has monopoly control over education.

    As far as accountability, School Boards are accountable to the Public - every two years, the each county in the entire state elects new School Board members. The school boards are all overseen by the State Super - another elected person.

    Funny... You are upset about "monopolies", and yet you support our new Governor, a man who made his bones at Progress, you know the Power Company "monopoly" in NC...

  • Krimson Mar 28, 2013

    "This one is just odd. What's the point?"

    To discredit the public school system.

  • rosannedisney Mar 27, 2013

    This one is just odd. What's the point? I really wish they'd slow down a bit and not just shake everything up to hear it rattle. The legislature needs to think some things through and have some decent discussion on 90% of the bills they are slamming through. This one's a dud.

  • tracmister Mar 27, 2013

    Charter schools as a whole have been proven to be no more effective than public schools even though they don't deal with the behavior problems of the regular school system. A separate board, separate public schools, equals a separate but equal school system. It's hilarious how there are no charter schools in other countries that are well ahead of the United States. Instead of Charter Schools, how about if the flight versus fight Republicans create laws to get rid of recurrent disruptions in the public schools which is truly the problem.

  • Mr. Middle of the Road Mar 27, 2013

    what real parent does not want to be involved in their childrens education.

    Actually, you said it all right there. Schools need parents involved.

  • happilynow Mar 27, 2013

    This is wrong on so many levels.
    Public (taxes) money goes to the charters and if that is the case then they should be held to the same constraints as the public schools.

    "It would create a negative climate of competition that would not benefit the children of North Carolina," We already have a negative climate of competition in North Carolina, it's called "Race to the Top". When there is a race there is always a winner and lots of losers.

    Charter schools "chafe" under regulations??? Well so do those of us in the public schools and we can't opt out. If you want the freedom to do as you please then that will cost you - pay your own way.

  • ncouterbanks69 Mar 27, 2013

    When dollars (monthly/quarterly p&l's) count more than our childrens education we will all be in trouble. If you are for profit that is ALL that matters, the profit.

  • whatelseisnew Mar 27, 2013

    "Charter schools can be good. In certain situations. But they should be limited and they should not take resources away from the overall public school system. Keep in mind many are 'for profit' and that can be problematic."

    Nope, they should ultimately replace the current system along with vouchers for Private Schools. It is time to stop wasting money buying land and building expensive buildings. The current system is completely unaccountable to the parents, students, and taxpayers. Competition will either force the traditional schools to improve, or eliminate them.