Clueless Caucus Crushes Charters

Raleigh – 4/7/11   In a breathtaking fit of silly nonsense worthy of Monty Python, the NC Republican house caucus passed a committee substitute charter bill that bore little resemblance to the Senate bill that was sent to it a week or so ago.

  • The cap would be paradoxically eliminated by imposing a 50 school per year cap!
  • New charters for at-risk and disabled children are encouraged to apply, but then will be terminated or not renewed if in a three-year period the children do not pass at least 60% of the state’s tests.  (State-wide passing for all 3rd grade reading was 57.8% in 2009-10.  For Black students it was 39.4%. )
  • Although they do not receive capital funds to buy buses or build cafeterias, new charter schools are required to provide transport and food for children of families with incomes less than 185% of the poverty level – $41,348 for a family of 4, about the median income for this age group in many areas.  Traditional district schools do not have such an equivalent requirement.
  • Charter schools, conceived as independent and free of most policies and regulations, would be totally dependent upon the State Board for all application approvals and actions, and the State Board can impose whatever policies and regulations it wishes.
  • While non-profit groups are competing among themselves for the uncapped cap of 50 charters, the State Board can directly award charters to districts requesting “Restart” status under Race To The Top.  These district charters count against the capless cap of 50.
  • No ranking or prioritization method is given for applications in the event there are more complete applications than there are charters remaining in a year.  Perhaps a lottery was intended?

To sum up this brilliant piece of legislative genius, charter schools will be less independent with less money but with more mandates while having to beat the state averages in academic performance or face shutdown.  Lessors and mortgage companies will undoubtedly mob charter schools with great deals as they seek to share in this smorgasbord of statutory stupidity.

If the Senate concurs, Perdue can sign it and claim to the NEA and other education groups that charters are under her control through the SBE and not to worry as they will be suitably brought to heel.  Charters will wither, and she can blame the Republicans.

If the Senate does not concur and it dies in conference, a Democrat can offer a cap-lifter like Senator Stevens’ original one-page SB8.  The SBE stays in control, and the Republicans will have to pass it.  Perdue will sign it and take credit with the Dems for the popular notion of lifting the cap.  Charters stay under the heel of the SBE.

Only if the Senate stands firm on its version 8 that it sent to the house, can charter proponents take a breath.  Perdue can veto it at her own peril, and then a real charter bill can be rolled out by a Republican governor in 2013.

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