Education

NC board backs 17 new charter schools in 2016

An advisory board recommends that as many as 17 new charter schools – including four in Wake County – open in North Carolina in 2016.

The State Board of Education will discuss the recommendations on Wednesday with a vote in June on giving preliminary approval for those 17 schools. This latest charter-school expansion is hailed by supporters as a way to provide more options for families and blasted by critics as a continuation of trends that are resegregating the state’s public schools.

Charter schools receive tax money but are exempt from some regulations traditional public schools must follow. There are 146 open now, and 16 more slated to open in August.

Forty charter schools applied to open for the 2016-17 school year. The N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Board interviewed 26 applicants and recommended that 17 get preliminary approval. If that is granted, applicants would get a year to plan before opening in August 2016.

The Wake schools recommended for approval are Cardinal Charter Academy of Knightdale, Central Wake Charter High School, Peak Charter Academy in the Cary-Apex area and Pine Springs Preparatory Academy in Holly Springs.

The latest round of charter recommendations would continue the expansion that began when the Republican-led General Assembly lifted the state’s 100-school cap in 2011. Since then, Democratic legislators and left-leaning advocacy groups have charged that charter expansion has come at the expense of traditional public schools.

“We keep getting more charter schools, but we’re not doing much to make sure they’re running well and are accountable to the taxpayers and the students,” said Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of Public Schools First NC, which opposes expansion.

Brannon pointed to a study released in April by three Duke University professors that found that North Carolina charter schools are much more likely than regular public schools to be racially unbalanced. The study also found that the percentage of students in predominantly white charter schools had doubled over time to 47 percent.

The Duke study made the statement “that many white parents are using the charter schools, at least in part, to avoid more racially diverse traditional public schools.”

Darrell Allison, head of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, has called it “false and disingenuous” to say charter schools perpetuate segregation. He notes that black students make up a higher percentage of the charter school population than in the regular public schools.

“What I honestly believe is that we have both white parents and black parents aggressively utilizing various school choice options in order to find schools that will best educate their children,” Allison said in a statement. “For them, the only race they are concerned about is their child racing to the top of their class and no longer lagging behind.”

Hui: 919-829-4534; Twitter: @nckhui

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