N&O editorial on charter schools is hinky

Editors of the News & Observer declare,

Sometimes there are good reasons why a bill doesn’t just sail through the General Assembly, even when one party that is pushing it holds substantial majorities in both houses. That’s the case with legislation that goes way too far in lifting the cap on charter schools. Charters schools, while exempt from many guidelines that apply to regular public schools, are public institutions funded with public money.

Make no mistake about it – the bill could have sailed through the General Assembly.  Yet, Republican legislators wanted to be fair to their Democratic colleagues.  They offered ample opportunities for public comment, committee discussion, and Q&A with the bill sponsor.  They allowed Democrats to introduce amendments, and the House even incorporated some Democratic ideas into the proposed committee substitutes. It is called acting honorably, a concept abandoned under the Basnight/Black regimes.  (To his credit, Joe Hackney ran a decent ship.)

In fact, Democratic ideas incorporated in the bill include, 1. providing transportation and food service for low-income children; 2. ensuring that booster funds and the like stay in district coffers; 3. capping the number of charters approved in any year; 4. capping enrollment growth at existing charters; 5. giving the State Board of Education power to veto charter commission decisions; 6. increasing the number of gubernatorial appointees to the charter commission; 7. clarifying accountability language; 8. increasing the information required for a charter school application; 9. requiring charters to enroll a minimum of 50 students; and 10) reverting charter property to the district if the charter accepted county capital funds. (I probably forgot one or two concessions, but those are the major ones.)  Apparently, Democrats are still not satisfied with the bill, but it is worth noting that they are running out of things to complain about.

One final thing.  The editorial references “traditional public schools’ noble mission.”  What is this mission and how well have our public schools fulfilled it?  I am not asking the question to be a jerk.  Americans have been debating this question for centuries.  It would be interesting to know how the N&O editors define “noble mission.”

Terry Stoops / Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies

Terry Stoops is the Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the Locke Foundation, he worked as the progra...

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