North Carolina’s Intentional Misuse of Charter Schools: They Are For Experimentation, Not Competition

“Charter schools were designed to foster competition with districts.”

The above was stated in the News & Observer yesterday by Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation in a report entitled “Popularity of charter schools is causing this NC school district to lose students.

And it’s not true. In fact, it is disingenuous.

As was reported by the N&O:

Durham Public Schools have gone from having about 33,000 students in 2014 to about 32,000 students this school year, with around half of that drop in enrollment in the past year alone. In contrast, charter school enrollment by Durham students has more than doubled in the past decade and increased by around a third since 2014.

The situation in Durham mirrors statewide trends where traditional public school enrollment is dropping as charter school attendance grows. Locally, school districts such as Wake and Johnston counties are still growing but at slower rates because of students opting for education alternatives such as charter schools.

Of all of the quotes and stats that were shared in the article, what was communicated by Stoops in the aforementioned quote stands out the most. As the vice president of research for the Libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation, his job is to defend  “school choice” as it is a staple of the ideology of his group and supporters.

And while it is expected that Stoops would tout the “competition” angle to improving public schools, he misinforms the public about the true origins of charter schools: they were designed to be experimental campuses to find new and different ways of reaching students. They were supposed to be part of the actual school district and successful practices found were to be brought back to the entire school system.

Charter schools were not designed to create competition. They were designed to foster collaboration and exploration and sharing. And there are some in this state that do just that and they are fantastic, but creating a charter school just to promote “school choice” is erroneous.

Funny that a report like this come on the heels the passing in a lame duck special session of the municipal charter school bill championed by Bill Brawley in Mecklenberg County.

Funny that reports are showing that charter schools around the nation are actually abetting the re-segregation of student populations. A couple of years ago, Lt. Dan Forest actually told DPI to “reissue” its report on charter schools because it was less than positive.

Stoops then makes yet another interesting claim in that report:

“Instead of rising to that competition, districts would rather try to find ways to undermine charters with regulations.”

Regulations?  How about maybe creating an equal playing field. Whether Stoops wants to admit it or not, there are lots of differences between traditional public schools and charter schools. In fact, Public Schools First NC has a fairly comprehensive list.


However, unlike traditional public schools, charter schools:

  • Are not governed by elected officials; for-profit companies may manage them, and there is no requirement that board members reside in North Carolina.
  • Have no curriculum requirements.
  • Can modify their academic calendar.
  • Have no restrictions on class size.
  • Can expand by one grade level beyond what is currently offered without approval from the NC State Board of Education.
  • Are not required to have all teachers licensed—only 50 percent of teachers must be licensed.
  • Are not required to hold teacher workdays for professional training and development.
  • Are not required to provide transportation to students, and those that do provide transportation are not subject to the same safety standards as are traditional public schools.
  • Are not required to provide free and reduced price lunches for students living in poverty.
  • Are exempt from public bidding laws that protect how tax dollars are spent. There is no transparency in budgeting since charter school do not have to tell the public how they spend public money.

If regulations mean creating more transparency, then districts have every right to undermine a shady system. In a state that has what is considered the least transparent voucher system in the United States, an Educational Savings Account program that lacks oversight, and virtual charters that have shown absolutely terrible results, then asking for more “regulations” from newly elected officials is absolutely right.

And it’s worth mentioning that the N&O report did say that Stoops is connected to a charter school in Wake County.

“…whose wife leads a new charter school scheduled to open this year in Wake County.”

It’s called Carolina Charter Academy.


It’s part of Team CFA.

Team CFA is based in Oregon. John Bryan, the founder of the Team CFA, has been donating money left and right to specific politicians and PAC’s here in North Carolina to extend the charter industry including Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (through a PAC). He spear-headed an attempt to win the contract of the ISD school in Robeson that was recently given a green light last year with Dr. Eric Hall as the superintendent. He would report straight to Mark Johnson under provisions of HB4.  (

By the way, Wake County is home to the largest number of national board certified teachers for a district in the entire United States.

Oh, and Bill Brawley was defeated in the last election.