An open letter to North Carolina parents from Eddie Goodall, former executive director of the N.C. Public Charter Schools Association:
Dear N.C. parent,
Today, as you look around you do not see the neighborhood charter school that you perhaps envisioned for your child. We took surveys and found that 70 percent of you wanted the cap lifted and the anticipated landscape for public education appeared fertile for planting charters. However, beneath the soil we did not see the toxins that have strangled the charters that could have sprouted and thrived.
Let me tell you about why you don’t see a charter nearby.
In the first five years in which charters were added, the Office of Charter Schools (OCS), a division of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, designed a series of technical requirements to deem a charter application “Incomplete.” For example, if a biography of a board member was 1.5 pages versus 1 page, the application was tossed in the trash can.
The advisory bodies did not help much either as the first “advisory board,” formed after Senate Bill 337 restructured the “advisory council,” turned down 60 of 71 applicants in its first applicant cycle.
In total, 224 charter applications providing for over 100,000 new charter seats have been rejected by our State Board of Education since the cap was lifted.
Because the severe practices of the OCS were left unfettered by the mostly Republican-appointed advisory groups and the SBE, applications dropped from a high of 71 in 2014 to 28 last September. This “incomplete” issue was mercifully fixed by House Bill 334 in the 2015 legislature requiring the OCS to allow applicants to correct minor format issues.
So, are we set to see charter growth? No.
The applications this upcoming September are likely to keep declining. If new applicants watched what happened at this month’s SBE ambush there would be a mass exodus. At that meeting, the SBE reversed its six-year-old practice of listening to the advice of the Charter School Advisory Board, and instead rejected five applicant charters who had been recommended by the CSAB by an average vote of 7-3! A slap in the face of the CSAB members and the valuable boards of the charter hopefuls.
So, now a new bar has been set. If one doesn’t get a unanimous vote it does not get a charter!
On May 4 I wrote: “To obtain a new charter, perhaps a unanimous or ‘super majority vote’ of the Advisory Board (CSAB) will be the new mandate of the State Board of Education (SBE), ushering in another form of de facto charter school cap.”
I wish I had been wrong.