Tuesday, July 2, 2013

North Carolina Seeks to Add Oversight to Its Charter School Legislation

The North Carolina Senate just passed SB 337, which would affect the liscencing and operation of new charter schools in the state.  North Carolina is one of the states that has traditionally shown resistance to charter schools, formerly capping their number in the state to 100.  To make itself eligible for federal Race to the Top grant funding, the state eliminated its cap in 2011 and added some other flexibility.  Now, the state senate appears to be second guessing the effects of that move.

The Center for Education Reform is railing the new bill in multiple releases.  See here and here.  Among its numerous concerns are that the legislations limits the entities that can authorize charters to the state's Charter School Advisory Board, requires “that the [charter] applicant has the ability to operate the school and would be likely to operate the school in an educationally and economically sound manner,” and "adds 'due process' when discussing when a charter can 'exclude a student' from their school."


Who is right in this debate?  In the past, I have cautioned against demonizing charter schools because charters can play a role in achieving integration and equity that may not be possible in traditional public schools (see here).  I have also said the peritnent question is how charters can serve the public good, not the polemic question of whether charters are good or bad (see here).  With that said, the Center's attacks on the North Carolina Senate only give more fodder to those who are skeptical of the charter movement's motivations.  The Center's complaints imply that charters should operate at will and with almost no oversight. 

That the state does not wish to have multiple charter authorizers in the state and does not wish to relinquish that process to third parties seems entirely consistent with the state's constitutional responsibility to oversee and provide education, even if it slows or centralizes the chartering process.  That the state wants charter applicants to substantiate their potential for success before turning over money and children to them likewise seems reasonable, even if it means some charters do not get authorized.  I would expect the good ones still will get authorized.  Finally, due process is a basic constitutional right that applies anytime a public school excludes a student from the learning process.  I cannot fathom why a charter school would not be subject to this requirement. If this means charters must invest in discipline administration, so be it.  Children have rights.

No doubt, these measures will impede the growth and operation of some charters.  But just as the question cannot be simply whether charters are good or bad, neither can it be simply whether a state law gives charters free room to grow and operate.




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