North Carolina Charter Schools Face Growing Pains

From limited board approvals to invalid lotteries to public records problems, North Carolina’s charter schools are facing rough spell. Few new charter schools are being approved, requiring the need for lotteries to decide which students are admitted. Charter schools are also under pressure for not releasing staff salaries to public records requests.

Out of the 71 applications in North Carolina to open their own independent public schools in 2015, only 11 received permission from the state’s screening board. This is a drastic decline from the last year. It is the state Board of Education that has the authority to put in the final word on which private charter schools will be allowed to get public taxpayer funds. However, the Board of Education usually goes with the state education advisory board’s suggestions, writes Anne Doss Helms for the Charlotte Observer. Some believe that the board rejected too many applications, but advisory board member Cheryl Turner disagrees:

“We really went out of our way to make sure that we were recommending schools that could take off and do well,” said advisory board member Cheryl Turner, director of Sugar Creek Charter School in Charlotte. “There are some very innovative schools coming.”

North Carolina has experienced an influx of charter schools ever since the state raised its 100-school ceiling in 2011, writes Helms. Even though six new charter schooled opened their doors this year, one closed in April following rumors of unanswered financial questions and academic shortfalls. Eleven further charter schools in North Carolina have been given the go-ahead to open in August.

The state legislature replaced the old advisory panel with a new group of advisers after the 2014 schools were approved. Many of the advisers are charter school leaders from around North Carolina, reports Helms. Nine of the 71 applications that the board reviewed in December were sent back as incomplete. Another application was withdrawn after the founders decided, instead of opening a charter, to work with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

In other North Carolina educational news, state charter schools director Joel Medley has sent all charter schools a warning saying that they could lose their permission to get taxpayer money if they do not give out salary information on all staff, reports TV station WXII. The statement tells charter schools to please recall that their individual boards signed an agreement to uphold the state’s public records law. Staff files for employees of school boards, the state, cities and counties are kept confidential according to state law, however, that same law also demands that names, salaries and positions must be given out when asked for.

In additional  news, many families were no doubt joyous when they were told that their child got a seat at either the Greensboro Academy or Summerfield Charter Academy, only to find out that this may not be so, and were told a month after the lottery, writes Marquita Brown for the News & Record.

A computer glitch,caused the lottery that chose children to malfunction.