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Senate passes bill to lift cap on charter schools

Posted February 24, 2011 11:30 a.m. EST
Updated February 24, 2011 11:44 a.m. EST

— The state Senate gave final approval Thursday to big changes to North Carolina’s charter school system.

Senate Bill 8 would remove the cap on the number of charters that can operate in the state. That limit is currently set at 100. It would also allow counties to use public money and lottery funds to help pay for charter school construction.

The measure would also set up a new commission to approve, oversee and revoke charter school licenses. The commission would function independently of the State Board of Education, though the Board could overturn its decisions by a three-fourths vote.

The Senate approved the bill by a 33-17 vote. The measure next goes to the state House of Representatives.

Republican supporters said the changes would offer more options to more students who aren’t being served well in existing schools, and bill sponsor Senator Richard Stevens, R-Wake, said Wednesday that the funding changes will give charters a chance at a more equitable share of education spending than they currently get.

Senate Democrats, however, said the bill doesn’t do enough to make sure the new charters are equally accessible to all students. They argued the schools should be required to offer the same busing and subsidized food programs as traditional schools.