State Board of Education reclaims charter school authority with new policy

By: - September 7, 2023 12:30 pm
children in a classroom

The State Board of Education adopted a policy Thursday that is designed to help it retain authority over the state’s charter schools. Photo: Getty Images

The State Board of Education on Thursday reclaimed authority over charter schools, approving a new policy that requires the Charter School Review Board to submit approved applications to the state board for funding consideration.

The state board approved the policy on an 8-3 vote, with Republicans Olivia Oxendine, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and State Treasurer Dale Folwell voting no.

Superintendent Catherine Truitt, also a Republican, strongly opposed the policy but is a non-voting member of the state board.

Superintendent Catherine Truitt – Photo: stream

Truitt and other policy opponents complained Wednesday that they had less than a week to review the policy. They also questioned whether the state board has the authority to withhold funding from schools approved by the review board.

“I say that because if the board were not to fund schools, it would impact third parties,” Truitt said. “While I see arguments on both sides, I’m not an expert and would want to learn more about this.”

The state board’s new policy is a counteroffensive to House Bill 618, which stripped it of much of its charter school oversight responsibilities. The new Review Board has the power to grant, renew, amend and terminate charters.

Meanwhile, the state board has rulemaking, accountability, appellate and funding responsibilities under HB 618.

State board chairman Eric Davis said during a discussion of the policy Wednesday that 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.

State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis -Photo: Greg Childress

The new policy comes just days before the Review Board considers at least two charter applications that previously received unfavorable state board rulings.

Now that HB 618 is law, charter applicants can request that the Review Board reconsider state board decisions made after July 1, 2022, in cases where they contradicted the former Charter School Advisory Board’s recommendations. The Review Board replaced the advisory board, which only made recommendations to the state board.

Davis said the new policy needs to be in place before the Review Board begins its work.

The 8-3 vote approving the policy represented a rare victory for progressive education leaders who have watched the Republican-led General Assembly enact several controversial new laws this legislative session, including measures targeting LGBTQ youth, expanding school choice and restricting what educators can teach.

The state board’s end-around approach to HB 618 didn’t play well with conservatives on the state board.

Robinson said policy supporters were “not professional” and that their actions almost “smacks of dishonesty.”

“I can assure you this will not go unnoticed,” he said.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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.