Liveblogging Senate Education Charter Schools hearing

Liveblog: NC Senate Education hearing on S8, No Cap on Number of Charter Schools.

Posted Updated

11:08 Leanne Winner, NC School Board Assoc. Says with no transportation and no free lunches, low-income students will not be able to access charters to the same extent more affluent kids will.  Also expresses concerns about changing the budgeting format for all LEAs, which is tucked into Section 6 of the PCS.  

Meeting adjourned.  More next week.

11:04 Now, two opposed.

First up: Ann McColl, legislative liaison for state Board of Education.  Says Board has asked lawmakers to consider increasing the cap on charters, but they're concerned about the governance issues. Points to Article 9 Sec 5 of state Constitution, which gives public school oversight to the State Board of Education. She says Board would be fine with advisory board for charters (I think they used to have one, actually - LL). Says current DPI office for charters "works hard," and other offices provide support, too.

11:01 Karen Sutton from Charlotte, mother of rising 6th grader. Supports the bill. Wants to get her daughter into a smaller environment, but they've been on the waiting list for a neighborhood charter for 2 years. "I want her to be in the best environment for her education."
10:58  Darryl Ellis (sp?) with Parents for Educational Freedom supports the bill.  Points out that 53 counties have no charter schools. Charter schools are only running in 47 counties.  Says 20K families are on waiting list, which Ellis says demonstrates demand.  Says it's important that they be funded equally with public schools, and held equally accountable for performance. None of the charter schools in NC have been categorized as low-performing. Says DPI found 88% of charters made AYP, compared to 57% of traditional schools.   
10:56  Stevens says both types of schools would be public, under state authority.

Tillman: calling for some public/agency comments, two from each side.

Those in favor will go first.

10:51 Sen Charlie Dannelly (D-Meck) speaking.  Talks about public school "push-outs" and expresses concerns charters might do the same. "I see two school systems under the 'public' name coming out of this... one constitutional," (under the "constitutional" state mandate and state oversight), "and the other a charter school system supported by public funds but without state restrictions."   Says it's important not to penalize school systems struggling now to make ends meet.
10:48 Stevens mentions Raleigh Charter High School, "which most people would probably tell you is the best high school in NC, public or private... and they did it with no capital money." 

Sen. Linda Garrou (D-Forsyth) expresses concern about what this bill would do to funding at the public schools.  

10:45  Sen Josh Stein (D-Wake) echoes concerns that charters could be used to resegregate schools, especially since charters aren't required under this bill to provide transportation, or at this point, free lunches. 

"Could we go from 100 to, like, 300 in one year?" Stein asked. 

Stevens: "In this version of the bill, there is no cap whatsoever." 

10:43 Stevens: how locals use lottery funding will be up to locals. 
10:40  Sen Floyd McKissick (D-Durham) says making Charter Schools Commission an advisory panel would solve some of the issues surrounding the issue.  Also wants a requirement that new charters apply to appropriate federal agencies for free and reduced lunches, which he says isn't currently required. 

McKissick adds that charters are diverse today, by and large, but says the state needs to pay attention to that going forward.  Also expresses concerns that charters will drain lottery money away from public schools. 

10:36 Co-chair Tillman: we're not taking amendments today. Get them to me by next Tuesday by noon.

Robinson: what about counties that already have school bonds in place? Stevens: well, they'd have to pay them off.,  But they could use some of the money for charters.

10:32 Sen Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford) - "we have to be very careful." Is concerned about the independent Commission - would it have a different set of performance and accountability standards than public schools? 

Stevens and staff say charters would still have to adhere to the standards set by the state Board of Ed.  Says all existing standards remain in place - the bill just shifts the authority to the Commission instead of the Board. 

10:28 Stevens responds to Graham: For a long time, special schools have been under governance outside of DPI, like HHS or the UNC system.  So this isn't different.  Points out the governor appoints all members of State Ed Board, and a future board might not like charters. "Will they [the Commission] work with the state board? They must."  (I don't see that in the bill, btw - LL)
10:26  Sen Rucho (R-Meck) asks about section regarding local and county funding for charters. Stevens says that's completely optional.

Sen Malcolm Graham (D-Meck) thanks Stevens for bringing the bill forward. "We need to do things a little bit differently moving forward, and charters may be part of that. But as you know the devil's in the details."  Says he's concerned about separation of oversight, and is afraid this will create a dual system of charters and public schools.

10:25 Debate opens.

Sen Bill Purcell (D-Scotland) says the state has worked hard to desegregate schools.  "Why would we want to make it easier for a public charter school to be a segregated school, which this appears it does?"

Sen. Stevens: "I don't think it does that."   Says current charter school populations are diverse, and schools can be opened to serve different populations. 

10:19 Staff: Charter School property would become tax exempt, regardless of ownership, as long as it's only used for non-profit educational purposes.

Bill would allow counties to allocate some of their lottery funding for school construction to charter schools.

Would allow cities and counties to supply capital for charters and/or lease property to them.

State Board of Education would be required to transfer funding and staff from Office of Charter Schools to the new Commission. 

10:17 Staff: The bill would remove 10% enrollment cap on charters, and would allow them to take out-of-state students if there's room, as long as they charge tuition that's equivalent to the state's per-pupil funding. 

Commission would be funded by a fee paid by schools: 1% of gross per-pupil allotment.

10:13 Staff explaining the details of the bill.

The Charter Schools Commission would operate independently of the State Board of Education.  The Superintendent of Public Instruction would be on the Commission, along with 10 appointees named by the governor and House and Senate leaders.

10:00 am We're livestreaming this hearing today, but I'll be adding info here. Refresh often. 

Co-chair Sen. Tillman:   We will not be voting this bill today.  Maybe next Wednesday or the Wed. after. 

Sen. Richard Stevens (R-Wake) is the sponsor.  He's introducing the bill now. 

The PCS (that's "proposed committee substitute) would 

  • remove the cap of 100 currently in place
  • put charter schools under the oversight of a new independent "North Carolina Public Charter Schools Commission," instead of under DPI 
  • clarify the funding formula
  • allow local governments to provide capital funding for charters.


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