Proposed New Charter School Board in North Carolina (Senate Bill 337)

In an interesting turn of events, the North Carolina Public
Charter Schools Association has come out in opposition to the Senate Bill 337’s
creation of a separate charter school governing board in the state which would
have independence from the NC State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction, and broad chartering, monitoring, renewal, and charter revocation authority.

Current North Carolina Charter
School Law

Currently in North Carolina, there are three chartering entities in the state with the authority to
give preliminary approval to charter schools: local boards of education, the
board of trustees of a constituent institution of the University of North
Carolina (with the provision that this institution is involved in the planning,
operation or evaluation of the charter school), and the State Board of Education.
Chartering entities are authorized to give preliminary approval to charter
applications, but final approval for all charter schools rests solely with the
State Board of Education. Applicants who are denied preliminary approval by a
chartering entity other than the State Board of Education may appeal to the
State Board. The State Board may give preliminary approval to an application on
appeal if it finds that the chartering entity “acted in an arbitrary or
capricious manner in disapproving the application, failed to consider
appropriately the application, or failed to act within the time set” by law.

If a charter
applicant submits an application to a chartering entity other than the local
board of education, within seven days of its application, the applicant must
also submit a copy of its application to the local board of education where the
charter school will be located. The local board may offer comments or
information about the application to the chartering entity. The law requires
that when making decisions about preliminary or final approval of a charter
application, the State Board will consider the information or comments
submitted by the local board of education, and consider the “impact on the
local school administrative unit’s ability to provide a sound basic education
to its students.” The State Board may grant initial charters for periods of up
to 10 years, and upon the request of a chartering entity, may renew charters
for subsequent periods of up to 10 years.

For the purposes of
ensuring compliance with laws and meeting the standards agreed upon in their
respective charters, North Carolina charter schools are held accountable to
either the local board of education (if it applied for and received preliminary
approval from that local board) or to the State Board of Education. Any charter
school, however, may choose to be held accountable to local board of education
where the charter school operates instead of the State Board. The law requires
that each charter school report at least annually to its chartering entity and
the State Board of Education the information required by the chartering entity
or the State Board.

Senate Bill 337

Senate Bill 337
would establish a new North Carolina Public Charter Schools Board to be located
administratively within the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction,
but empowered to “exercise its powers and duties independently of the State
Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction.” Key functions of
the new Charter Board would include the following: (a) overseeing the process
for accepting and approving charters and making final approval of all charter
applications (a function now reserved for the State Board of Education); (b)
overseeing the process for monitoring charter schools’ operation; and (c)
taking actions regarding charter schools in the state, including renewals,
nonrenewals, and revocations of charters. The North Carolina State Board of
Education, however, would have the authority to “veto by a three-fourths vote
any action adopted by vote of the Charter Board if the State Board’s veto vote
is taken within 45 days of the date the Charter Board voted to adopt the
action.”

The Charter Board
would be comprised of 11 voting members, including: three members appointed by
the Governor, three members appointed by the NC General Assembly “upon recommendation
of the President pro Tempore of the Senate,” three members appointed by the NC General
Assembly “upon the recommendation of the recommendation of the Speaker of the
House of Representatives,” the State Treasure or her designee, and the
Lieutenant Governor or her designee. The State Superintendent of Public
Instruction would serve as secretary and a non-voting member of the Charter
Board.

The Controversy

Senate Bill 337 was
passed in the NC Senate earlier this month. The vote was largely along party
lines, with support for the bill coming from Republicans in the
Republican-controlled Senate. What makes the NC Public Charter Schools
Association’s opposition to the creation of the separate Charter Board as
proposed in the current version of Senate Bill 337 is that the Association
first supported passage of the bill. Charter school advocates have supported
the creation of the Charter Board to give charter schools in the state a
greater degree of autonomy from the State Board of Education and the Department
of Public Instruction; bodies which depending on the who controls them, could
be antagonistic to North Carolina’s charter schools. So the reason for the NC
Public Charter Schools Association’s seemingly change in attitude toward the creation
of the board is unclear. But I am betting that when that reason surfaces the plot
to this story will thicken considerably.

One thought on “Proposed New Charter School Board in North Carolina (Senate Bill 337)”

  1. I believe that there are two charter school associations in North Carolina. The NC Alliance for Public Charter Schools has backed the proposed new board from the beginning; the North Carolina Public Charter Schools Association has just announced its opposition.

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