AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR: More about the North Carolina Public Charter Schools Board

March 25, 2013

Last week, we discussed the potentially unconstitutional bill that would create a North Carolina Public Charter Schools Board.  Senate Bill 337 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee on Wednesday, March 27 at 10:00 AM.  In addition to the proposed charter board seemingly undermining the State Board of Education, which is constitutional authority responsible for supervision and administration of public schools, there are several other problems with this legislation.

Charter schools have fewer regulations because they are supposed to have flexibility to develop innovative teaching techniques. The law currently requires that 75% of the teachers in elementary schools have to be certified and 50% of teachers in middle school and high school must be certified.  Teachers who instruct in core classes in sixth grade through twelfth grade have to be college graduates.

The lack of a requirement for teacher certification is problematic but Senate Bill 337 takes matters a huge step backwards.  The bill eliminates any requirement for certification or college degrees for teachers. Charter schools already receive public money despite having fewer regulations, while traditional public schools that are required to have certified teachers are getting money siphoned away.  

Charter schools are largely held unaccountable because there are very few state employees to monitor them. The Department of Public Instruction Office of Charter Schools only has six members when it is fully staffed and only four consultants.  Governor Pat McCrory’s recently released budget added money for three more employees, but even if all nine employees provided oversight it is still not enough people to monitor the 134 schools expected in the 2013-2014 school year.  Plus, there is no guarantee that the General Assembly will approve those positions.

Even if there were enough consultants to provide oversight, Senate Bill 337 makes it even more difficult to close failing charter schools. If the charter of a school will be terminated or not be renewed, the Charter Schools Board can allow for a bidding process and another “entity” can take over the school.  This provision seems to be an invitation to for-profit charter management organizations to come in and make immediate money. In fact, if the new entity assumes the charter, the money left from the last operation does not go back to the government. Instead, the money will go directly to the new charter operator.   

During her recent speech in Raleigh, Dr. Diane Ravitch discussed “chain schools,” which are companies that have a string of charter schools throughout the country.  The for-profit chain school company would be exactly the kind of entity that would take over a failing school. They may have some educational plan but they are definitely going to have a business model. Our students are not served when profits are more important than pupils.

While there is a lot to be disturbed about in Senate Bill 337, the pathway to privatization is clear in the proposed legislation.  Charter schools have not been the innovative laboratories that make students successful.  There is no evidence of their success or any gains in student achievement.  Rather than ensuring that they aid student success, we may allow them to be governed by a board that wants to see the proliferation of charters with uncertified teachers and largely unaccountable administrators some who only have a profit motive. North Carolina’s students deserve better.   

More news you can use:

Wake County legislators will hold a public hearing on Monday, March 25, 2013

Charlotte Observer op-ed about high-stakes testing

Mecklenburg ACTS petition against high-stakes testing

Lindsay Wagner, NC Policy Watch Education Reporter, shows how budget cuts impact a school

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