The State Board of Education took steps Thursday that could accelerate the opening of new charter schools both in Wake County and across North Carolina.
In the short term, the State Board gave preliminary approval for 11 new charter schools to open in 2015. The list includes what would become the 20th charter school in Wake County – PAVE Southeast Raleigh Charter School.
It’s modeled after the PAVE Academy, a charter school in Brooklyn, N.Y. Locally, the chairman of PAVE’s board is J.B. Buxton, who was the education adviser to former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley. PAVE plans to open as many as four charter schools in North Carolina.
But some other actions, all mandated by the Republican-led General Assembly, could ramp up the pace of charter expansion. The changes would particularly benefit companies that are looking to add multiple charters and who have the financial resources to get the new schools up and running.
The legislature is requiring the opening of two virtual charter schools in 2015 as part of a pilot that could lead to many more opening. In response, the State Board approved Thursday a process for groups to apply for the pilot.
Legislators were also unhappy that more new charters weren’t recommended this year so they passed legislation requiring the State Board to develop a process that would allow some charter school operators to get quick approval.
In response, the State Board approved Thursday a “fast-track” option for charter applicants that have experience operating successful schools and want to copy them. Charters on the fast track would not have to go through the typical planning year, and could open months after their approval at the start of an academic year.
Experienced charter operators could also benefit from another policy being considered by the State Board. The General Assembly is requiring the State Board to have in place by Jan. 15 a procedure allowing an applicant to take over a failing charter school.
The State Board is scheduled to adopt the new policy for taking over charters in October.
Thursday’s story by Lynn Bonner has more details on all the changes.