NC receives more federal grant money to help increase diversity at charter schools

Posted October 10, 2019 11:51 a.m. EDT

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— North Carolina has received a $10 million federal grant – in addition to $26.6 million it received last year – to help charter schools enroll more educationally disadvantaged students.

The additional funding will help expand the state’s Advancing Charter Collaboration and Excellence for Student Success, or ACCESS, program. Under the five-year program, the Department of Public Instruction will award subgrants to high-quality charter schools seeking to serve more educationally disadvantaged students and to provide professional development for charter school leaders.

Charters, which are publicly funded and privately run schools that do not charge tuition, have been booming in North Carolina with more than 100,000 students enrolled at nearly 200 schools across the state. Twelve charters opened this year, and 10 more are expected next year – putting the state's count at 206 charter schools.

Alex Quigley, chairman of the state’s Charter School Advisory Board, said the federal grant money will help expand charter opportunities for more students across the state.

"This award indicates, in my opinion, an expression of confidence from the U.S. Department of Education in the work the Office of Charter Schools has undertaken through the development and launch of the ACCESS Program,” Quigley said in a statement. “These additional funds will further advance our efforts to ensure equitable access to outstanding public charter schools for all students.”

The total funding, including the additional award, in North Carolina will be used to:

  • Award 60 competitive subgrants to new and existing charter schools to increase the number of educationally disadvantaged students attending high-quality charter schools and expand the number of high-quality charter schools available to educationally disadvantaged students.
  • Develop a cohort of 160 charter school leaders who can develop and demonstrate best practices in serving educationally disadvantaged students.
  • Broadly disseminate best practices in serving educationally disadvantaged students and foster collaboration in the charter school community and between charter schools and traditional public schools.

The funds are intended for new and existing charter schools to better meet the needs of traditionally underserved students – those who are economically disadvantaged, homeless, non-native English speakers, students with disabilities, immigrant students, migrant students or are or unaccompanied youth.

The Office of Charter Schools awarded nine schools earlier this year with five-year subgrants ranging from $250,000 to $600,000.

“This supplemental funding will give more charter schools the opportunity to receive subgrants and participate in the highly successful ACCESS Fellowship,” Dave Machado, head of the state Office of Charter Schools, said in a statement. “It will also enhance our goals of increasing diversity in our charter schools and increasing the opportunity for educationally disadvantaged students to attend high quality charter schools.”

The competitive subgrants are available to eligible charter schools to help fund planning, implementation, expansion and replication.

The State Board of Education and Charter Schools Advisory Board will approve all eligibility criteria and granting of awards. The funding also will support the yearlong ACCESS Fellowship, a professional development experience for charter school leaders intended to provide support and technical assistance to develop, expand and replicate schools.

The goal of the effort is that by the conclusion of the five-year ACCESS initiative, the program will have created a community of 160 charter school leaders who have developed and demonstrated best practices in serving educationally disadvantaged students.

The application for the next cycle of subgrant awards will be posted on Nov. 15.

Charter schools were created in North Carolina two decades ago, and their enrollment has increased more than 200 percent in the past 10 years.

State funding for charters has grown from about $16.5 million in 1997, when there were 34 schools, to now more than $580 million, a 3,415 percent increase. Of the $8.93 billion in state funding for public education, 6.5 percent is allotted to charter schools.

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