AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR: Accountability and Oversight

February 1, 2013

One of the dangers of the charter school explosion is the inability to ensure oversight and accountability. When the number of charter schools was capped at 100, it was difficult for the Department of Public Instruction’s understaffed Office of Charter Schools to properly monitor all of them. Now, the office must serve 134 schools that are currently running, just opened or are in a planning year.

The oversight issue can be seen in vivid detail in a recent NC Policy Watch Investigates report. In “A factory of excellence?”, investigative reporter Sarah Ovaska examines Quality Education Academy, a charter school in Winston-Salem. With fewer than 100 students, this small school has a basketball program that has won a few high school championships. The school is able to put a great team on the court because it recruits players from other states as well as other countries. The Office of Charter Schools began to investigate the school in 2011, but somehow the investigation discontinued. Read the story and see why oversight and accountability are so important if we are going to divert money from traditional public schools to unelected private non-profit boards.

The lack of oversight and accountability is especially worrisome when charter schools are run by for-profit corporations. Some want to open virtual charter schools, and the State Board of Education recently enacted a policy to regulate these schools. However, the NC Justice Center’s Education and Law Project issued a press release about the policy, stating that regulation is a “step in the right direction” but maintaining that oversight and accountability are essential if these virtual charter schools have to exist at all. We are participating in litigation involving the first virtual charter school trying to open in North Carolina. The amicus brief can be accessed here.

The state needs to ensure that every public dollar given out goes toward providing students with their constitutional right to a sound basic education. This cannot be done without diligent oversight and stringent accountability of our schools.

You may be interested in:

  • Christine Bischoff, Education and Law Project Litigation Attorney, discusses virtual charter schools on News 14’s Capital Tonight. The discussion starts about 8 minutes into the program. (You may need a Time Warner account to access the show.)
  • Chris Hill, Director of the Education and Law Project, discusses the school to prison pipeline on Black Issues Forum on UNC-TV.
  • Our friends Jason Langberg from Advocates for Children’s Services and Prof. Barbara Fedders from UNC Law School’s Juvenile Justice Clinic wrote this op-ed about school security.

 

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