Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper continues to give his veto pen a workout for the 14th time this year, this time vetoing a bill involving the expansion of charter schools, including being able to request money from counties for funding capital projects.
H.B. 219, Charter School Omnibus, would allow charter schools to request money from counties for funding capital projects. The funds could be used to construct, renovate, or purchase a building, athletic field, playground, furniture, and office equipment. Currently, the operating costs of charters are paid for by state and local taxes, but they do have to fund and secure their own buildings.
Counties can raise taxes under the bill, but it’s not required.
Enrollment caps at low-performing charters would be removed, and it would allow the State Board of Education to consider growth “greater than 20%” for those schools.
In addition, it would allow admissions preferences for graduates of certain Pre-K programs and for children of active-duty military families. The student would have to be enrolled for at least 75 consecutive days in the prior semester at another school and have a written enrollment articulation agreement with the program operator to give the program’s students enrollment priority.
Currently, admissions are made by a lottery system.
Also, the Review Board will not consider any alleged impact on the local school administrative unit or units in the area served by a charter school when deciding whether to grant, renew, amend, or terminate a charter, according to the bill’s language.
It allows for charters to add enrollment and new grades over time without the need for the State Board’s approval, provided they have operated for at least three years, have not been identified as continually low-performing, and have been in financial compliance as required by the State Board
The bill would also prohibit local boards of education from discriminating against charter school students and allows for the admission and charging of out-of-state and foreign exchange students to charter schools.
H.B. 219 passed in the Senate on June 29, 27-12, and was concurred in a House subcommittee on July 12 by a vote of 61 to 41.
“This bill allowing more students to attend failing charter schools risks their education and their future,” Cooper said in a press release. “The State Board of Education should continue to oversee the enrollment growth of charter schools to assure success. North Carolina should continue to cap the enrollment growth of low-performing charter schools until they can show that they improve student achievement. Finally, diverting local resources to build charter schools without clear authority on who owns them risks financial loss to county taxpayers who have no recourse.”
Cooper vetoed another charter school bill, H.B. 618, Charter School Review Board, on July 7.
Under the current system, new public charters must first be authorized by the Charter Schools Advisory Board and then receive a majority vote from the State Board of Education. H.B.618 would create a new Charter School Review Board responsible for evaluating and approving new charters. Its decisions could be appealed to the full State Board of Education.
The new commission would have 11 voting members — four from the Senate, four from the House, and two from the State Board of Education. The final member would be the lieutenant governor.
It passed in the Senate on June 20 and received concurrence in the House on June 27.
Enrollment has been steadily rising at the more than 200 charter schools in the state.
Cooper’s latest veto will most likely be overridden on August 7, the day that overrides are scheduled on the House calendar. Eight have already been overridden, thanks to the Republican supermajority in the General Assembly.
He allowed H.B.201 Retirement Admin. Changes Act of 2023-AB. To become law without his signature.