Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What's Behind North Carolina's Move to Increase Oversight of Charter Schools?

After my post yesterday about NC Senate Bill 337 and the Center for Education Reform's strong response, I did a little digging (thanks to tips from the UNC Center for Civil Rights) to understand what was behind the move.  After all, the state had recently raised its cap on charter schools and elected new republican majorities in the state legislature that were favorable to charter schools.  The answer seems to lie in the effect that expanding charter schools would have on small rural districts.

Apparently, the Arapahoe Charter School in Pamlico County had been fighting the State Board of Education for approval to expand from a K-8 school to a K-12 school.  The expansion had been denied, in part, due to the impact it would have on the Pamlico County Public School District.  In its impact statement to the State Board, the district indicated that the county was not wealthy enough to support two high schools and that the loss of funding that the current high school would experience would result in cuts to professional development, the after-school tutoring program, two special education teachers, a literacy coach and $60,000 in instructional supplies.

Displeased with the denial of its charter expansion, Arapahoe Charter School sought change through the state legislature.  An early bill would have allowed it to make some expansion without the approval of the State Board.  Charter advocates also wanted the legislature to authorize other entities in the state to approve charters.  NC SB 337 stemed that tide and, instead, seems to put protections in place for districts like Palmico.  For more on this story, see here and here.  In researching my article Charter Schools, Vouchers, and the Public Good, I also came across a few studies that suggested this sort of tension is a national phenomenon in smaller districts .  For more on those studies and the argument that the overall public good must control rather than the wishes of individual students or charters in these situations, see here.

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