News: CJ Exclusives

Reports Released on NC Charter Schools

Evidence suggests families benefit from competition and choice

RALEIGH – Two reports released Tuesday by the North Carolina Education Alliance provide compelling new findings about the state’s diverse and growing charter school movement, suggesting that charter schools are meeting a previously unmet need in the state for educational options.

Charter Schools in North Carolina: Innovation in Education describes the progress of the charter school movement in North Carolina since 1996, and provides a thorough and relevant analysis of the issues and obstacles facing these schools. It also profiles individual charter schools around the state, including Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy in Western North Carolina, John H. Baker Charter School in Raleigh, and Gaston College Preparatory and Haliwa-Saponi Tribal School in Eastern North Carolina.

“While charter schools have experienced some of the struggles common to any new reform, this report shows that they are excelling at providing choices for students and families, many of whom have been failed by traditional public schools,” said Lindalyn Kakadelis, director of the NC Education Alliance and a former teacher and school-board member from Charlotte.

Key highlights of the Innovation in Education report include:

• Charter schools have been shown to lift the performance of other public schools, nationally and in North Carolina, by injecting competition into the local educational market.

• Charter schools serve a heterogeneous group of more than 21,000 North Carolina students, including at-risk pupils, regular students, and poor children.

• Charter schools are by far the most comprehensive example of public school choice in North Carolina, yet they still comprise only a tiny fraction of the total number of public schools (about 4 percent).

• The imposition of rigid state regulations is the foremost obstacle encountered by charter schools, and could severely restrict the long-term growth of the movement.

In addition to the policy report, NCEA simultaneously released a parents’ guide to charter schools. A Choice for Children provides parents with helpful facts and information explaining charter school basics, and shows parents how to get involved in the movement to support charter schools.

Both reports were released Tuesday at an event in Raleigh that helped to launch NCEA’s 2004 Fall Tour. Jeanne Allen, president of the Washington-based Center for Education Reform, spoke to an audience of school leaders, education reformers, and interested citizens at North Carolina State University’s McKimmon Center about the national charter-school movement and prospects for reform in North Carolina.

The NCEA tour will take Kakadelis to many North Carolina communities over the next two months, including Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Hillsborough, and Asheville. Speaking about educational innovation and parental choice to civic clubs, educational institutions, taxpayer associations, and neighborhood groups, Kakadelis will discuss the two new reports on charter schools in greater detail.

NCEA was founded in 1998 as a special project of the John Locke Foundation, a Raleigh-based public-policy organization. It publishes reports and studies on major issues affecting elementary and secondary education in North Carolina, hosts a frequently updated archive and web portal on school-reform issues at, and participates in meetings and forums across the state to discuss issues such as testing and accountability, academic standards, sound curriculum, performance-based compensation, competition, innovation, and parental choice.