The Republican-controlled NC legislature wants to “fix” our public schools by bringing in 50 new charter schools per year with its latest education bill. But critics note that while 17% of charter schools perform better than the average public school, a larger percentage are worse. And starting costly new schools in the midst of the Great Recession is not fiscally prudent.
Many charter schools are designed to 'handpick' students, and their policies cater to two-parent, affluent households. Teachers do not have to be certified, and questionable teaching or discipline practices do not have the oversight of public school administrators. While the charter bill does include a new NC Charter School Commission (to act independently of the Department of Public Instruction), it will not determine local policy.
The expense of setting up NC’s new charter schools and commission will bleed our state’s already-shriveling public school dollars, including transportation budget, child nutrition money, and even a percentage of public school fundraisers. This bill also gives counties new taxing authority, “up to a combined rate of one dollar and fifty cents ($1.50) on the one hundred dollars ($100.00) appraised value of property subject to taxation” to help charters build capital.
Legal challenges to the Charter Cap bill are anticipated to cost millions of dollars, further bankrupting our state and our children’s educations.
Despite No Child Left Behind’s destructive testing standards and labels, NC’s public schools are not broken. In fact, the recently adopted Common Core Standards should increase academic rigor, and a proposed update to NCLB will measure student progress to better illustrate successful teaching strategies. NC does not need the ‘fix’ or expense of raising the Charter cap.
During tough economic times, fiscally conservative child advocates should work together to improve the schools we have, not throw them out and buy new ones.