Facts to Consider:
- 20,000 – Number of students on charter school waiting lists in North Carolina.
- 100 – Maximum number of charter schools North Carolina can establish under current law.
- 0 – Number of Charter Schools on state’s “low performing” schools list.
During the first week of the new legislative session, Sen. Richard Stevens (R-Wake) introduced SB-8[CI1] . The bill is regarded as the most significant charter school legislation since the passage of the charter school bill in 1996. Among other things, the legislation removes North Carolina’s state-imposed cap on charter schools, establishes a Public Schools Charter School Commission (PCSC) and makes it easier for charter schools to expand enrollments. The Senate approved the bill last week. The bill is now under consideration in the House.
SB-8: What the Bill Does:
- Eliminates the Charter School Cap: The bill removes language limiting the number of charter schools to 100. PCSC would become responsible for determining the number of charter schools by virtue of their approval or rejection of charter applicants.
- Enrollment: Under current law, charter schools who wish to expand enrollment by more than 10 percent can only do so with the approval of the State Board of Education. SB-8 says charter school enrollment will be determined annually by the board of directors of the school and PCSC. PCSC cannot restrict the number of students enrolled in a charter school.
- Charter School Commission: Establishes Public Charter School Commission (PCSC) to authorize and administer charter schools. PCSC will be composed of 11 members. Appointments will be made by the governor (2); Senate (4); and House of Representatives (4). The Superintendent of Instruction or his/her designee will be a permanent Commission member. The State Board of Education can veto any PCSC decision by a three-fourths vote. SB -8 requires the Office of Charter Schools to report to PCSC.
- Approval: PCSC shall approve all charter school applications. If an application is declined, applicants can request reconsideration.
- Finances: Allows counties to provide funds to charter schools for expenses related to the acquisition of property, construction or renovation of buildings or school furniture and instructional equipment.
- Teachers: Credits charter school teachers who return to employment in local administrative units – without a break in service – for years of service for purposes of salary schedule, longevity pay and earned leave.
What the Bill Does Not Do:
- Alter Composition of Schools: SB-8 retains the requirement that charter schools “reasonably reflect” the racial and ethnic composition of the general surrounding population of the school administrative unit in which the charter school is located. Public Schools that convert to charter schools will give enrollment preference for two years to students who reside in the enrollment area.
- Weaken Accountability: Charter schools remain subject to the audit requirements of the School Budget and Fiscal Control Act and the reporting requirements of the Uniform Education Reporting System.
- Transportation: Currently some charter schools provide transportation to students. SB-8 allows schools to decide if they would like to provide transportation to students.
- Foster Discrimination: State law forbids charter schools from turning away any student based on an individual’s educational needs. Not all charter schools are equipped with the staff and resources to address the educational needs of all students. In 2008-09, 9.4 percent of charter school students were exceptional needs children. Over the same time period, approximately 7.8 percent of traditional public school students were exceptional needs students.