Opinion: K-12 Update

Lindalyn’s Journal

Week of June 5, 2006

When it comes to divvying up education dollars, North Carolina’s charter schools always seem to get the short end of the stick. While these innovative schools are, in fact, public schools, they must often make do with far fewer dollars than traditional public schools.

No surprise then, that the language in North Carolina’s lottery law brought with it a sense of déjà vu for charter school advocates. Lottery legislation cut these schools out of their fair share of lottery proceeds allocated to public schools. This left North Carolina with the dubious distinction of being the only state in the country that treats charter schools differently when it comes to the distribution of lottery revenue.

This past January, charter school advocates decided they had had enough, founding North Carolina Students For Equitable Lottery Funding (NC-SELF). Determined to fight for equal funding, NC-SELF mobilized public opinion with workshops and press conferences across the state highlighting the plight of charter schools.

NC-SELF’s hard work is paying off. Recently, legislators in both the House and Senate introduced bills to correct the lottery law’s funding inequity. House Bill 2385 and its companion, Senate Bill 1795, “Charter Schools May Receive Lottery Proceeds,” would clear the way for charter schools to receive their fair share of lottery revenue.

Unfortunately, these bills face an arduous journey before they can become law. Both bills have been referred to committees, meaning their fates lie in the hands of committee chairs.

These bills may also need to withstand a fusillade of opposition from entrenched bureaucracies. By design, charter schools allow public dollars to follow the child to a school, up-ending the practice of pouring money into centralized education coffers. As a result, some groups mistakenly view charter schools as a threat to public education. Such organizations (dubbed the “BLOB” for Big Learning Organization Bureaucracies) flex a powerful political muscle and maintain a formidable presence in the state legislature. Not surprisingly, the North Carolina School Boards Association, the North Carolina Association of Educators, the North Carolina Council of School Attorneys, the North Carolina Principals and Assistant Principals Association, and the North Carolina Association of School Administrators all retain lobbyists to represent their interests and block any kind of meaningful education reform.

Will the charter school movement beat the odds this time? Let’s hope so. But don’t expect legislative victory to come without a fight. Please consider contacting your elected representative with your views on this issue. Your voice matters. After all, state legislators are elected to represent your interests, not those of a well-connected, moneyed bureaucracy.