Virtual charter academies bill approved by NC House

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-WIlkes, presents a bill on virtual charter academies in committee.

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  • North Carolina charter schools could offer virtual instruction under a bill passed March 7 by the House.

North Carolina charter schools could offer virtual instruction under a bill passed March 7 by the state House.

House Bill 149, Remote Charter Academies, would open the door for local and virtual statewide charters. Individual charter schools could apply to create virtual academies, which would require the approval of the State Board of Education.

In 2022, the General Assembly passed a bill expanding options for public school districts to offer virtual academies, but public charter schools were not included in that bill.

“This is an option for children,” said bill sponsor Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes, during debate over the bill in the House K-12 Education Committee. “This is an option that a parent makes a choice to go into. This type of school can help many children where maybe they don’t fit into a traditional type school, or maybe they’re not meeting their own academic growth.”

Democrats objected to the bill on the basis that the two existing statewide virtual charters have received low rankings in recent evaluations. Currently, there are two virtual charter schools operating statewide — North Carolina Cyber Academy and North Carolina Virtual Academy.

“I really don’t understand why we are continuing to extend this pilot program when since 2016 these schools have received ‘D’ ratings and have not met growth standards,” said Rep. Julie Von Haefen, D-Wake.

Elmore responded that North Carolina “has hundreds of schools that are at ‘D’ and ‘F’ ratings and are not meeting proficiency,” but they aren’t shut down.

“Ever since I’ve been here, it seems like some people want charter schools to fail,” added Rep Frank Iler, R-Brunswick. “Until we started changing the caps on enrollment and the caps on the number of charter schools, they were set up to fail. I’d like us to quit celebrating the failure of these and look for better and better ways to at least try things to improve what’s been a failing system entirely.”

H.B. 149 passed the House 70-43.