70 NC charter schools apply to open in 2014

khui@newsobserver.comMarch 4, 2013 

As many as 70 new charter schools could open in North Carolina in August 2014, including 16 in the Triangle, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

State education officials say the 70 proposed schools represent the largest collection of applicants since the state’s first public charter school opened in 1997. State officials will spend the next several months reviewing the applicants before recommending to the State Board of Education which ones should get preliminary approval to open for the 2014-15 school year.

“As the number of quality charter schools continues to grow in North Carolina, the Department of Public Instruction will continue to work closely with these new public schools to meet students’ needs and boost academic achievement,” State Schools Superintendent June Atkinson said in a statement Monday.

Charter schools receive taxpayer funding but are exempt from some of the regulations that traditional public schools must follow. They are also independent of the school districts in which they’re located.

In January, more than 150 applicants submitted letters of intent to open in 2014. Less than half met Friday’s application deadline.

The area that could be affected most is the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, the state’s second-largest district. The state has received applications for 19 new charter schools in Mecklenburg County.

In Wake County, the state’s largest school district, nine new charters could open in 2014. Based on their initial intent forms, these nine schools would offer a range of themes, such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); special education, and a geographic focus on students in Southeast Raleigh.

Five charter schools are proposed for Durham County, including a statewide online charter school.

One new charter school is proposed for Orange County and another in Chatham County.

The latest group of applicants represents the continued expansion of charter schools as alternatives to traditional public schools. The General Assembly eliminated the 100-school cap on charters in 2011

There are currently 107 charter schools in North Carolina serving nearly 50,000 students.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to vote Thursday on giving final approval to 25 applicants to open this fall.

Critics contend that charter schools drain funding and students from traditional public schools. But supporters say that charter schools provide more choices for families.

“Due to pent-up demand for public charter schools as an option for more families across North Carolina, we are not surprised by the flood of applications, which confirms our efforts for eliminating the cap on public charter schools,” Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, a pro-charter school group, said in a statement Monday. “However, the emphasis on quality over quantity is a message we will continue to share.”

Hui: 919-829-4534

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