After reading your Jan. 13 editorial “Caution light on charters,” I had to scratch my head and ask if you really know all the oversight charter schools receive now in this state. So let me see if I can help.
First, you expressed concern that charter schools are regulated “just by charter school advocates.” Public charters must meet the same academic testing standards as conventional public schools. They are regulated by the full-time staff of the Office of Charter Schools in the Department of Public Instruction.
Each year, all schools are audited by a CPA. They must adhere to a lengthy list of requirements in the charter school agreement. Their Board of Directors must follow nepotism and open meeting laws. The State Board of Education has the final say on everything, just as they do with every other public school in this state.
The charter school advocates on the Charter School Advisory Board – the ones you question – have shut down charter schools for lack of performance. Something I assume you would applaud.
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What happened at Kestrel Heights was unacceptable to the members of that board, and they showed it by recommending a harsh penalty tempered by the fact that the school leadership had self-reported. Every charter school advocate and operator agreed the situation at Kestrel was egregious. It does not, however, point to the need for more strict regulation of charter schools.
Kestrel is not the first school to not properly report graduation requirements. The same thing happened at a conventional school in Charlotte five years ago. With the recent emphasis on increasing graduation rates, it might be a good idea to review the oversight of all high schools. The Charter School Advisory Board will lead the review for charters.
Finally, the regulation you seem to favor is replacing the cap on the number of charter schools when they are proving to be an excellent choice for many students. According to U.S. News & World Report article, 9 of the top 25 high schools in the state are public charters.
Charters need proper oversight as does every other public school. But in a state that needs every quality school seat it can get, do we really want to cut this pipeline of innovative schools off? Charter school operators understand that without proper accountability they will lose the flexibility that allows them to provide a choice to the parents in the communities they serve.
But a choice means the choice of something different, not the same. Let’s not regulate charters into being the same. Charter schools are not the right choice for every student – and never will be. But they are proving the right choice for many.
Charters want to be seen as allies in the battle to improve education, not simply competitors, to our traditional schools.
Executive Director, NC Association for Public Charter Schools
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the editorial.