News: CJ Exclusives

School Choice Advocates Schedule Meetings in Raleigh

Groups backing expanded parental involvement target new legislative leaders

If you’ve ever thought about starting a charter school, becoming involved in the state’s growing school choice movement, or just giving state elected officials an earful about education reform, your chance may be just around the corner. Two state-based education reform organizations are hosting events designed to give citizens additional tools to expand school choice in North Carolina.

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina will be hosting a public “town hall”-style forum Jan. 24, “to discuss the political realities and potential solutions for transforming K-12 education in North Carolina,” according to PEFNC President Darrell Allison.

The event, to be held at the North Raleigh Hilton, is timed to coincide with National School Choice Week and will feature panel discussions with elected officials and school choice advocates from around the state and across the nation.

Allison says the forum is the finale of a series of events organized around the state since early October, usually involving a screening of the documentary film Waiting for Superman, which examines the challenges facing public education and discusses the political forces opposing the parental choice movement. Allison says his organization has hosted 13 screenings of the film around the state and conducted follow-up discussions with attendees. He estimates that about 2,000 people have attended the screenings.

“We drew quite a few parents from public schools, charter schools, and private schools, but also a number of public school teachers” to the screenings, said Allison. “We though we’d get more opposition and challenges [from the public school sector], but that was not necessarily the case.”

Allison says the forum will be “an opportunity for folks to express their support for school reform,” and he stresses that it will be a bi-partisan event where Republican and Democratic legislators will be in attendance.

“This is truly democracy at its best,” says Allison. “It’s the people’s chance to express their desires for real education reform and for our legislators to act upon them.”

Those interested in attending can register on the PEFNC website. Registration and attendance are free of charge.

For more of hands-on view of education reform, the North Carolina Alliance for Public Charter Schools is hosting a workshop on how to start a charter school. The Feb. 7 event aims to empower future charter leaders with knowledge for the development of a competitive charter application and an effective charter school, and will be held at the Raleigh Marriott.

Alliance president Eddie Goodall says the workshop will be “ideal for persons seeking general information about the North Carolina charter school movement and the process for obtaining a charter contract.”

With newly elected pro-charter majorities in each chamber of the General Assembly, Goodall is confident that obstacles to the growth of charter schools in North Carolina, such as the cap of 100 schools, will soon be removed.

“The majority has promised to eliminate the cap early in the session,” he said, “and we don’t want there to be a delay in putting together quality applications.”

Goodall is adamant about the need for high quality applications that reflect well-thought-out plans for new charter schools. “The alliance is all about supporting the growth of high quality charter schools, and this workshop will ensure that new charter school operators get started off on the right foot,” he said.

The workshop will feature presentations on the current charter school law and changes likely to be enacted to it during this session of the General Assembly, how to set up the business framework of a charter school, and how to manage charter school finances. Attendees also will receive advice from current charter school operators and have an opportunity to network with others in the field.

Participation will be limited to 40 persons, so advance registration is recommended. The cost is $295 per attendee, with a reduced rate of $195 per person if more than one member of a charter interest group attends. For registration information, contact the alliance at 919-900-8951, or visit its website.