This Actually Happened – Nov. 1, 2017

From the category of “Differences Between Public Schools and Charter Schools.”

This is from today’s Charlotte Observer article entitled “Want public emails from this NC charter school? Write a check for $7,500 up front.”

A Charlotte-area charter school has responded to a public records request by demanding an up-front payment of $7,500, saying that’s the estimated cost of paying a contractor to produce the emails and a lawyer to oversee the work.

The request comes from Charter School Ethics, which describes itself as a Texas-based charter school watchdog group that remains anonymous for the safety of its volunteers. The group, which communicates by email, filed a request for nine months of emails related to a consultant working with Thunderbird.

 It joins a roster of news media, citizens and businesses that regularly file requests for public records, some of which lead to court battles and public disputes. For instance, a coalition of media and public interest groups sued then-Gov. Pat McCrory in 2015 when his office balked at providing public emails. The Observer has also reported that Mecklenburg County fails to preserve text messages on county phones and officials’ personal devices, even though state law defines texts as public records.

On the other side is Thunderbird Prep, a small, struggling charter school whose complex financial arrangements have led to scrutiny from state officials. It’s part of a rapidly growing segment of North Carolina’s public education scene, with the state spending $513 million on 167 schools in 2016-17.

Public records.

Public schools.

Public money.