By David N Bass
In an end run around a new law that seeks to streamline the process for approving new charter schools, the Democrat-controlled North Carolina Board of Education OK’ed a new policy on Sept. 7 that allows the board to control funding for new charters.
The policy shift says that state and federal funding can’t flow to charter schools unless the State Board of Education approves. The move puts a dent in a law passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. That measure creates a new Charter School Review Board responsible for evaluating and approving new charters. Under the previous system, the full State Board of Education had the final say, under recommendations from the Charter Schools Advisory Board.
“This is what happens when elected bodies take power away from a bureaucracy: they fight tooth and nail to get it back,” said Dr. Robert Luebke, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “It isn’t good for public schools or charter schools. Like most all disagreements these days, this will likely end up in the courts.”
The policy passed 8-3, with all Democrat appointees voting in favor plus one Republican appointee, chairman Eric Davis. Three Republicans voted against — Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, State Treasurer Dale Folwell, and board member Olivia Oxendine, who is a GOP appointee.
“To do this in one day is unfair,” said Robinson during the meeting Sept. 6. “It’s unprofessional, and it smacks of political pandering and should not be tolerated on an issue this important.”
Davis said the move was needed because seven charter schools have closed in recent years. “At least five of them with questionable financial situations, which are currently being reviewed by federal officials.”
School choice supporters were quick to criticize the move.
“North Carolina charter schools are enormously popular with families, as evidenced by the 77,000 names on charter school waitlists,” said Lindalyn Kakadelis, executive director of the NC Coalition for Charter Schools. “The legislature streamlined the approval process for new public charter schools to meet this demand. The State Board of Education is wrong to play these bureaucratic power games when parents just want options in their public schooling.”
David Bass is a senior contributor to the Carolina Journal.