North Carolinians like their charter schools.
A January 2019 Civitas Poll found that 76 percent of respondents “somewhat” or “strongly” supported charter schools. Only 16 percent of respondents opposed charters.
Since 2008 enrollment in charter schools has increased 252 percent.
Since lifting the cap, the number of open charter schools in North Carolina has almost doubled.
Such numbers indicate better educational opportunities for students. They also point to the high levels of satisfaction among students and parents alike.
However, success has its enemies. Many of them are wed to the public schools and view charters and traditional public schools in a zero-sum tussle.
That opposition crystallized last week when Senators Dan Blue, Jay Chaudhuri and Mujtaba Mohammed introduced legislation (SB 247) calling for a joint legislative study committee to address—among other things – how charters impact local school administrative units and how charter schools compare academically with local public schools. Most importantly however, the legislation also caps charter school enrollment until after the proposed study is completed.
Of course, capping charter growth is the real goal. It’s interesting to note that bill sponsors made sure Democrats had a majority (6) of appointments on the Joint Legislative Study Committee, while Republicans only had four appointments.
Such provisions may be necessary to ensure the outcome anti-charter advocates want, but they may also work to kill the bill.
The legislation raises concerns about charter schools’ impact on public schools, transparency and accountability. These are tired, flawed arguments which have already been addressed.
However, a larger question begs to be asked – and answered; why are so many families seeking other educational options for their children?
Ignoring that question and focusing on the impact of charters on traditional public schools reveals the real concern of the bill’s proponents, which is protecting a failing system – not finding out why a steady stream of parents are seeking other options.
Regarding questions of accountability and transparency, of course, charter schools need to be both. However, there is more than one way for schools to be accountable. Since parents choose charter schools and can pull their child from a school if they aren’t satisfied, schools are ultimately accountable to the parents. Regrettably that’s not the case with many traditional public schools.
Charter schools are public schools but are different. They have different regulations, curricula and governance. Comparing charters using the metrics of traditional public schools is a disservice to both.
That charter schools have a waiting list of approximately 55,000 students speaks volumes.
SB 247 limits the educational freedom that North Carolina parents want and tells families that we know best how and where your child should be educated.
It’s a view that has been tried, failed and is out of step with North Carolina.