News: Quick Takes

State Board of Education approves 10 charters, but delays approving two others

Twelve charter schools sought approval to open in 2020, although the State Board of Education failed to approve two of them after local district officials and PTA members raised concerns.

Board members voted to approve the 10 charter schools during an SBE meeting Thursday, June 6, and sent the two failed requests — Wake Preparatory Academy and North Raleigh Charter Academy — back to the Charter School Advisory Board for further consideration.

Neither school received unanimous approval from the charter board. Some advisory board members took issue with North Raleigh Charter Academy because Charter Schools USA, the management group operating the school, is also opening Wendell Falls Charter Academy in the same year. Questions were raised about Wake Preparatory Academy’s lease and enrollment projections.

Seven CSAB members voted to approve Wake Preparatory Academy, but two voted against it. The vote to approve North Raleigh Charter Academy was even more split; six voted to approve the school, and four voted against it.

SBE member Amy White said she heard concerns from Wake County Superintendent Cathy Moore, Wake school board Chairman Jim Martin, and other Wake County school board members regarding the two charter schools. Those concerns should have been raised with the Charter School Advisory Board earlier, White said.

Some PTA groups have also taken a stance against allowing more charter schools.

“As some of you have heard, many out our PTA units are fighting the proliferation of more charter schools in the area, many by a for-profit company,” Susan Brooks, Wake County PTA Council member wrote in a May letter. “Charters have no set boundaries, so more charters in the county will affect the entire county.

“We need to hit the pause button.”

But Terry Stoops, vice president of research and education studies at the John Locke Foundation, said the complaints of a few school district officials and outspoken PTA members isn’t reason enough to deny a charter to Wake Preparatory Academy or North Raleigh Charter Academy.

“As charter enrollment continues to increase and district enrollment has stalled, it is no surprise that Wake County school officials and advocacy organizations are stepping up their attacks on charter schools,” Stoops said.

Stoops is a co-founder of Carolina Charter Academy, a Wake County charter school set to open in August.

“Rather than compete for students based on the merits of their schools, the district would rather try to impede the expansion of their competition,” Stoops said. “That is precisely how one would expect a declining monopoly to behave.”

Some have worried about the growth of charter schools — the state lifted the cap in 2011. The amount of charter schools has grown exponentially since, with their numbers expected to reach 200 by 2020.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said the State Board of Education was punishing the two charter schools by “stalling,” despite the CSAB voting to approve the schools.

“We’re punishing them because other people aren’t going through the proper procedures and process that they have to go through and that we’re requiring of them to do,” Forest said in a News & Observer story. “I just want to make sure that the charter community and everybody else that’s engaged in this feels like they’re being treated fairly through this process.”

The CSAB will review the concerns June 10. If the advisory board approves the schools, the applications will once again be sent to the State Board of Education for another vote.