Put The Cap Back on NC Charter School Growth

In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly under the control of the GOP in both chambers for the first time in decades lifted the cap on the number of charter schools in the state.

Until that time, the cap was 100. If the State Board of Education approves the 12 submitted for approval by the Charter School Advisory Board this week, then that number will rise to almost 200 (196).

Greg Childress posted an article on NC Policy Watch today on the upcoming SBE meeting that will decide which of the 12 will be approved and the call for more investigation into what charter schools are actually doing in this state.

Critics contend charters siphon students and resources from traditional public schools and contribute to the re-segregation of North Carolina schools.

In March, State Sen. Dan Blue, (D-Wake County) called for a “recess” from granting charters until a joint legislative committee he wants to create can study their impacts on traditional public schools.

Blue is a primary sponsor of Senate Bill 247, which would establish the joint legislative study committee and place a moratorium on charter growth.

SB 247 was referred to the body’s Committee On Rules and Operations of Senate on March 14. Because it didn’t cross over to the House, the bill is essentially dead through 2020.

Public Schools First NC has also called for a camp cap on charters while the state exams student performance, fiscal management and how charter impact students, traditional public schools and taxpayers.

Interestingly on May 30th, the Washington Post ran a piece entitled “School’s out: Charters were supposed to save public education. Why are Americans turning against them?” Written by Jack Snyder, it investigates what charters were supposed to do and how those expectations have never been met. He states,

Today, however, the grand promises of the charter movement remain unfulfilled, and so the costs of charters are being evaluated in a new light. For the first time in two decades, even as the number of charter-bound children rises (the schools will educate between 20 and 40 percent of American students by 2035, according to one projection), the opposition is gathering momentum.

And the conclusions that Snyder claims as a foundation for his argument are rather germane to North Carolina’s extreme charter school growth. They should be considered by the State Board of Education and the NCGA when thinking about granting more approvals for charter schools.

In fact, Snyder forces us in NC to ask:

1. Have charter schools in North Carolina actually brought back innovative pedagogical approaches? Snyder comments, “A report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education concluded that charter school innovation has often been in areas like “new uses of funding and governance,” rather than in instructional designs.” That observation holds true for North Carolina. Just look to the Municipal Charter Bill from last year championed by former Sen. Bill Brawley.

2. Have charter schools in North Carolina allowed lower income families to escape what Snyder categorizes as “bad schools?” Remember that there is a difference in offering choice and “ensuring quality.” Consider the following graph from Kris Nordstrom.

3. Has the rise of charter schools in North Carolina brought about that “systematic improvement” of the entire public school system? Again, refer to the graph above. In fact, many in this state would argue (including this teacher) that the very people who enable such unregulated charter school growth in NC make sure to have an evaluation system that shines a negative light on traditional public schools.

Kris Nordstrom (referred to earlier) is one of the best education writers and researchers in this state and a Senior Policy Analyst for the  NC Justice Center. He tweeted this today which includes even more observations that pertain to North Carolina, specifically the effects of charters on LEA budgets and racial segregation.


As it stands now, many LEA’s are required to send millions of dollars to charter schools in their district without having any oversight over how those dollars are used. And the more students that a charter school can take away from a traditional school, the less money that traditional school may be able to ask for on the state and federal levels.

And as far as the segregation part is concerned, just last month Huntersville city commissioners recommended starting a charter school and removing itself from the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School system. At one point in that meeting one of the officials stated,

“The towns are looking to be as diverse both socially economically and racially,” Puckett said. “We are happy with the diversity we have. Can we be more diverse? Most assuredly in the future, but we don’t think it’s not up to the school system to socially manipulate the population.”

Huntersville is almost 85% white.

None of the “promises” made by those who championed charter school growth in North Carolina has been fulfilled except that it offers some sort of choice to some people. But even that new choice for some comes at a price for others.

Snyder quotes a member of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce toward the end of his report:

“We’ve turned education into a commodity — if that kid walks across the street, you’re chasing after him for the money attached to his seat. That’s ridiculous if you think about the long term.”

Same thing here in NC.

This state needs to put a cap back on the number of charter schools and honestly study the effects they truly have on traditional public schools.