State Politics

NC lawmakers debate charter schools’ share of local school dollars

Raleigh Charter High School was the top-ranked school in the Triangle in the U.S. News & World Report's 2016 Best High Schools List. The N.c. House is considering whether it should go along with a Senate proposal to have local school districts send more money to charters.
Raleigh Charter High School was the top-ranked school in the Triangle in the U.S. News & World Report's 2016 Best High Schools List. The N.c. House is considering whether it should go along with a Senate proposal to have local school districts send more money to charters. khui@newsobserver.com

Charter schools want a bigger slice of the money that traditional public schools receive. Their fight to get it has played out for years in legislative committee rooms and courtrooms.

The battle is now back in the legislature, where the House is considering whether it should go along with a Senate proposal to have local school districts send more money to charters.

The state and counties give charter and traditional public schools money for each student. But several questions about funding sources remain, including whether charters should get a share of grants that schools win for specific purposes or of federal money that school districts receive to cover indirect costs of administering programs.

Traditional public schools say they need every dollar, and it isn’t fair to have to dole out money to charters that don’t have to cover program costs.

Charters say they need the money, too, and they aren’t treated fairly under current law.

North Carolina has 158 charter schools.

Several legislators in a committee meeting Thursday did not get clear answers to their questions about what kinds of federal grants would have to be split with charter schools under the proposal. The committee spent more than an hour debating and listening to speakers, but took no action.

House Education Committee Chairman Jeffrey Elmore, a North Wilkesboro Republican, said legislators wanted the meeting for discussion and questions. He did not say what would happen next with the bill.

“We cannot get a clear-cut answer on a pretty basic core piece of the bill,” said Rep. Chris Whitmire, a Transylvania County Republican. “This bill is not ready for live time.” Some members said they did not have enough time to sort out the details before the end of the legislative session.

But Rep. John Bradford, a Mecklenburg County Republican, argued against delay. It’s wrong to suggest that charters are taking money from traditional schools, he said, because the bill would restore some of the money charters were getting before a 2010 law.

“This bill re-establishes more equity,” he said. “I really encourage us to keep pushing forward with it to get to the resolution.”

Sherrie Cannoy, a parent of two children in Randolph County schools, said one of her daughters does not want to take any more computer courses because there aren’t enough working computers.

“It is wrong to siphon more money from our core public schools to give to charter schools for services or programs they may not provide,” she said.

Pamela Blizzard, founder of Research Triangle High School, said the school gets less per student than Durham Public Schools. The charter school would use the extra money for a bus for East Durham students so they don’t have to use public transportation, to invest in its personalized learning model, to collaborate with other school districts and to send teachers to national events to talk about the school’s successes.

“All of that would be exactly what we set out to achieve in our innovative charter,” she said.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner

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