Under the Dome

NC panel wants 2nd chance for rejected charter school applicants

Durham, NC's Reaching All Minds Academy charter school third graders in biotech teacher Valerie Chambers' (cq) class spend time reading about ecosystems while seated on a carpet of the periodic table of the elements Monday afternoon, December 15, 2014.
Durham, NC's Reaching All Minds Academy charter school third graders in biotech teacher Valerie Chambers' (cq) class spend time reading about ecosystems while seated on a carpet of the periodic table of the elements Monday afternoon, December 15, 2014. News & Observer file photo

Charter school advocates want to push up the timetable for approving charter schools and give rejected applicants a second chance at getting state approval without having to wait as long as a year to reapply.

The N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Board recommended policy changes Thursday that would send applicants who are rejected by the State Board of Education back to the advisory panel for further review. The advisory board would quickly send the applicants back to the State Board for reconsideration.

“What this would do is just basically say that if we voted to approve the school, before the State Board would say no they would ask us to look at it again,’ Steven Walker, vice chairman of the advisory board, told his colleagues Thursday.

The policy change also calls for speeding up state approval for most new charter schools to June. Under state law, the State Board must make final decisions on new charter schools by Aug. 15.

The changes would need to be approved by the State Board to go into effect. The proposal comes after the advisory panel considered more extensive policy changes in October in response to the State Board rejecting several new charter applicants this year.

In August, the State Board of Education approved eight new charter schools to open in 2017. But the State Board also rejected five applicants that had been recommended by the advisory board in split votes.

State Board members rejected those applicants after noting the number of charter schools that have failed in recent years. Charter schools are taxpayer funded public schools that are exempt from some of the rules and regulations that traditional public schools must follow.

North Carolina has seen the number of charter schools increase since the 100-school cap was lifted in 2011. There are 167 charter schools open statewide this school year.

Currently, charter school applicants who are denied have to restart the application process. It’s a process that typically delays the opening of the planned school by a year or more.

In October, the advisory board discussed a policy change in which applicants who received at least 75 percent of the panel’s support would go on the State Board’s consent agenda for approval instead of being voted on individually.

The consent agenda is reserved for items that are not considered to be controversial.

But on Thursday, the advisory board backed a policy change that was less sweeping.

Under the proposed change, the advisory board will complete its recommendations on new charter schools by its April meeting. The recommended charter schools would go to the State Board of Education by its May meeting.

The new policy calls on the State Board to approve applicants by its June meeting or to refer them back to the advisory board for further review. The applicants would return by the State Board’s August meeting for a final decision.

Walker said moving up the approval process will give more time to answer questions that state board members may have. He said that this year’s Aug. 4 meeting date hadn’t given the State Board enough time to resolve issues about some applicants before the state-mandated Aug. 15 deadline.

The proposal comes as the advisory board is in the midst of reviewing applications to open 38 new charter schools in 2018.

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