Rejected NC charter applicants wait decision on second chance

khui@newsobserver.comApril 8, 2013 

— An advisory council will wait until Tuesday to decide what to do with more than two dozen charter school applications that were rejected for the 2014-15 school year.

Charter school supporters have been lobbying for a second chance for 27 of 69 applicants that were deemed incomplete by the state Office of Charter Schools because of missing paperwork. Members of the Public Charter School Advisory Council debated Monday what further steps should be taken but said they wanted 24 hours to think over the issue.

Options proposed Monday include having a subcommittee of council members determine which of the rejected applicants should be reviewed by the full body. The council recommends to the State Board of Education which charter schools should be approved.

“I certainly don’t want to turn away a good application that would do a good job of educating children,” said John Betterton, chairman of the council. “But there are a lot of pitfalls out there that we’ll end up in.”

The situation has drawn the attention of state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who council member Alan Hawkes said had asked him to do what he can to hear out the rejected charter applicants.

Berger and other key Republican lawmakers are considering legislation that would create a new board to govern charter schools, in the process eliminating the Public Charter School Advisory Council and reducing the authority of the state Board of Education over those schools. The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee last week.

A charter school is a publicly funded operation with more flexibility in its operations than traditional public schools. Some are run by private management companies.

In February, the advisory council gave the Office of Charter Schools several suggestions to help determine which applications would be considered incomplete and not forwarded for further review. Betteron said the council wanted to tighten up the screening process.

The rejection letters cite reasons such as not submitting hard copies to go along with the electronic application; not having all board members sign documents; not including an organizational chart; not including a copy of the school calendar, and reporting a budget deficit.

“We did everything we could to be as consistent and fair as possible to make these difficult decisions,” said Joel Medley, director of the Office of Charter Schools.

But some council members said applicants were rejected for immaterial reasons.

For instance, the Office of Charter Schools rejected all four applications from Norman George of Raleigh because he didn’t include a copy of the calendar he’d use even though he said they’d use the calendar of the school district they’re located in.

“We’re going to be that pedantic and that narrow that application will be booted,” Hawkes said.

Hawkes also said that there should be a difference between a school that reports a deficit of $561 and one that’s more than $800.000.

Medley said the issue has received so much scrutiny that his office re-examined all the applications, included the ones that were approved. He told Betterton on Monday that Davidson Charter Academy in Davidson County and James K. Polk Public School in Mecklenburg County should not have passed the initial screening.

Betterton said the council will decide Tuesday whether to still consider those two schools.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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