Controversial semi-autonomous charter board dropped

lbonner@newsobserver.comJune 25, 2013 

The main advocate for a semi-independent state board to govern charter schools has dropped the controversial idea in favor of setting up a new charter advisory council.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, sponsor of a bill that would have set up the semi-autonomous board, said he was satisfied with most of the changes a House committee approved Tuesday.

With a rewritten bill in hand, opposition largely dropped away, with some Democrats and the N.C. Public Charter School Association saying they could now support the measure. Top-level education officials, including new State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey, opposed the idea of a charter board making decisions that could be overruled only by a supermajority vote of the State Board. They questioned whether such an arrangement would be constitutional.

Tillman said he was satisfied that charters would be treated well with Cobey, a Republican, as head of the School Board.

“I think it will work fine this way,” Tillman said.

Under the bill, the existing charter advisory board would be replaced by a board made up of appointees of the governor, lawmakers from both chambers, the State Board and the lieutenant governor. Under previous versions of the bill, the state treasurer would have been a member, but that seat is gone.

Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat, said he was pleased that the bill no longer sets up a separate charter board.

“It strikes me as the right balance,” he said.

The N.C. Justice Center continues to oppose the bill.

Under the revised law, only half of a school’s kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers would need professional licenses, down from 75 percent. Matt Ellinwood of the Justice Center questioned the change. “There’s no shortage of certified teachers,” he said.

Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican, said his wife, who is not a teacher, home-schooled their children and they all went on to successful college careers.

Generally, charters pick students by lottery, but the bill expands the pool giving priority to children of all the charter school’s employees, not just those of principals and teachers.

The State Board will no longer have to consider comments from local school boards on how a new charter would effect education in traditional public schools. Local school board objections to charter applications in recent years have been largely disregarded.

Bonner: 919-829-4821

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