House eyes federal money with school changes

North Carolina lawmakers aim to change how low-performing schools are transformed after missing out on a big pot of federal money.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — State lawmakers are trying to change how low-performing schools are transformed after missing out on a big pot of federal money.

The House Education Committee on Thursday approved legislation that adopts federal guidelines on reforming poorly performing schools by giving local districts four options on how to revamp them, one of which allows a restart with a structure similar to a charter school. Charters are public schools allowed to operate with fewer rules.

The cap on the number of traditional charter schools - those not controlled by local districts - would remain at 100 under the bill. The committee rejected a Republican amendment to raise the cap to 106.

There are approximately 115 low-performing schools in the state, according to the governor's office.

"This bill will give local school districts new ammunition in the fight to ensure that every child, no matter where he or she lives, has access to a quality education. We simply cannot continue to tolerate schools that do not prepare our children to graduate ready for a career, college or technical training," Gov. Bev Perdue said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Perdue sought the changes to improve the state's chances after missing out on $600 million in federal Race to the Top grants in March. Applications for a second round of grants are due next month.

State Representative Paul Stam said he likes charter schools, but not the proposed legislation.

“It doesn’t create anymore charter schools,” Stam said.

The low-performing schools, turned charter schools, would still be under the local school board not under an autonomous board like Raleigh Charter High School and other charters.

Chris Fitzsimon, executive director of NC Policy Watch, said he doesn’t like the charter school idea either, but for other reasons.

“If you flip the school into a charter, the kids don’t magically get smarter and the teachers don’t magically get better,” he said.

The House is expected to vote on the bill Monday.



Adam Owens, Reporter
Mark Simpson, Photographer
Kathy Hanrahan, Web Editor

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