Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes controversial charter school bill

By: - July 21, 2023 4:30 pm
Gov. Roy Cooper

Gov. Roy Cooper (File Photo)

A Republican-backed bill allowing counties to spend local tax dollars on charter school construction projects was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday.

Cooper said in a statement that House Bill 219 puts taxpayers’ dollars at risk.

“Diverting local resources to build charter schools without clear authority on who owns them risks financial loss to county taxpayers who have no recourse,” Cooper said.

The House approved HB 219 on a 61-41 vote on July 12. The bill had bipartisan support with four Democrats crossing the aisle to vote with Republicans in favor of the bill.

Charter schools are public schools that operate without much of the red tape associated with traditional public schools. HB 219 could change the way charters finance school facilities. The schools receive state and local dollars to operate, but charter boards or the nonprofits they partner with have been largely responsible for financing school buildings.

HB 219 also prohibits the state board from considering impact statements from local school districts when the board considers whether to grant, renew, amend or terminate a charter. District leaders generally submit such statements to prevent charters from opening in their communities.

Last month, Democrats peppered HB 219 sponsors with questions about a provision in the bill that allows charters to give enrollment preferences to graduates of certain preschools.

Sen. Natasha Marcus (D-Mecklenburg) argued that children from certain preschools would essentially be allowed to skip the line to enroll in charters, many of which claim to have long waitlists.

“Parents who have been waiting a long time to get in, they’re going to be mad to think that there’s some side door by which, if you pay enough preschool tuition to send your kid to that one preschool, that somehow gets them in early,” Marcus said during a meeting of the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee.

 If HB 219 becomes law, it will also:

  • Remove restrictions of growth for charters that are not low-performing and allow the state board to consider growth greater than 20% for charter schools that are low-performing.
  • Allow charter schools to admit out-of-state students and foreign exchange students.
  • Prohibit local boards of education from discriminating against charter school students.
  • Establish a pilot program to allow Central Park Schools for Children in Durham to expand the weighted lottery to include factors to assist economically disadvantage students, including walk zones.
  • Provide for conforming changes if HB 618 becomes law.

Cooper said HB 219 will allow more students to attend failing charter schools risks their education and their future.

“The State Board of Education should continue to oversee the enrollment growth of charter schools to assure success,” Cooper said. “North Carolina should continue to cap the enrollment growth of low-performing charter schools until they can show that they improve student achievement.”

HB 219 will likely become law because Republicans have votes to override the governor’s vetoes.

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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.