Charter school applicants’ request for reconsideration rescheduled for October

By: - September 11, 2023 12:30 pm
children in a classroom

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The new Charter School Review Board has temporarily tabled the requests of two charter school applicants seeking reconsideration of unfavorable State Board of Education rulings. The Review Board will hold those hearings next month.

One of the applicants seeking reconsideration of an earlier state board ruling is Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy — Wake County. The state board denied the application in March, citing concerns about school leader Kashi Bazemore’s management of a charter school in Bertie County. The school was low-performing and was assumed by another charter operator in 2018. It permanently closed in 2022.

The state boards rejected HCLA-Wake’s application to open a 600-student, K-8 school in northeastern Wake County, despite the Charter School Advisory Board’s unanimous recommendation for approval. Most of the new Review Board members served on CSAB.

The other school is American Leadership Academy in Monroe. The school would be managed by Charter One, an influential educational management organization.

State Sens. Todd Johnson and David Craven, both of whom represent districts covering Union County, took the extraordinary step of sponsoring a bill to overturn the state board’s vote denying ALA Monroe applicants a charter. Senate Bill 230 remains in committee.

The ALA Monroe applicants claimed to have 1,000 families prepared to enroll children in the school.

In a column published by the conservative John Locke Foundation’s Carolina Journal, Michael Way, Charter One’s southeastern division president, said the state board’s action “appeared to be strictly based on politics.”

Monday marked the first meeting of the Review Board, which was established by House Bill 618. The board has the authority to grant, amend, renew and terminate charters. It replaces the Charter School Advisory Board, which only made recommendations to the state board.

Two applicants asked the Review Board to reconsider applications after the state board denied them charters earlier this year. A provision in the new law allows applicants to request reconsideration of state board decisions made after July 1, 2022, in cases where they contradicted the old advisory panel’s recommendations.

Last week, however, the state board approved a new policy requiring the Review Board to submit charter approvals to the state board for funding consideration. With that move, the state board reclaimed some charter school oversight stripped from it when the Republican-led General Assembly approved HB 618.

The state board has rulemaking, accountability, appellate and funding responsibilities under HB 618. It no longer can approve, amend, renew or terminate charters.

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt and several other Republicans serving on the state board complained last week that they didn’t have enough time to review the new state board policy. They also questioned whether the state board has the authority to withhold funding from charter applicants approved by the Review Board.   

State board Chairman Eric Davis said the state board must retain funding authority over charter schools to ensure fiscal accountability.

“The reason why I firmly believe that the board should continue to focus on our financial accountability stems from the truth that over the last few years seven charter schools have closed, five of them with questionable financial situations, which are currently being reviewed by federal officials,” Davis said.

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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.