Friday, June 17, 2011

North Carolina Charter School Cap Lifted

For two months the North Carolina House of Representatives and the Senate have deliberated in conference committees to negotiate on a charter school bill that affects about 1.5 million North Carolinian students and their families. The bill eliminates a charter school cap which had previously been placed at a limit of 100 schools. The legislation finally passed on June 13.

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison and State Superintendent June Atkinson said ”We applaud the General Assembly for approving legislation to support the growth of quality charter schools in North Carolina … This legislation will guide us in this important work and will enable charter schools to better meet the needs of students across the state.”

Charter schools have become increasingly popular as a choice for schooling in North Carolina and often have long waiting lists. With the cap lifted, these waiting lists should largely be reduced. Charter schools main benefit is that they provide parents with more educational options for their children. When a parent is unable to afford a private education for their child or distrusts their neighborhood public education, charter schools provide an alternative.

Raleigh (N.C.) Charter High School was ranked in “U.S. News” as one of the top 25 public high schools in the country. Principal Dr. Thomas Humble, said “I believe that having more charter schools will have a positive impact on student achievement.”

The new legislation will require that the State Board of Education approve and renew each charter school. Charter schools will be accepted and renewed based on guidelines which require them to meet certain performance standards. The board will either assist or close schools that do not meet the set educational standards. The new law also mandates the State Board of Education be accountable to the General Assembly for the management of the charter schools. Ultimately, though, charter schools will still have fewer requirements than public education.

North Carolina charter schools can yet still make advances. “Charter schools should be incubators of the best ideas in education. I would like to see more experimenting with what works for student achievement,” said Dr. Humble.

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