If you’re a charter school applicant you’re likely a little confused this morning. At their last meeting the Charter School Advisory Board approved only 11 of the 71 applicants hoping to open public charter schools this year. Applicants must still be formally approved by the State Board of Education, but they usually follow the recommendations of the Charter School Advisory Board. The new additions will bring the total number of charter schools in North Carolina to 137.
The eleven new schools is a significant decline from earlier this year when the board approved 26 new charter schools. So why the variation? Several factors may be in play. First the Charter School Advisory Board has all new members. Different boards frequently have different concerns and different thresholds that they want applicants to meet. Also boards don’t operate in vacuums. It seemed as if many board members were looking closely at whether applicants offered transportation and meals for students. A high percentage of applicants that didn’t offer transportation and meals were rejected. Charter school critics have complained that charters have not offered transportation and meals as way of limiting the low income students. Also it probably didn’t help that a Charlotte charter school closed in April displacing about 300 students. That reality likely made board members more likely to ask questions and less likely to approve if they didn’t have satisfactory answers. All in all not a bad thing, but still frustrating for many charter school applicants
Interestingly, five of the new schools are in the Triangle area, including a new online virtual charter school which will be open to students from any county.