|2015-2016 Charter Schools Legislative Agenda
The NC Public Charter Schools Association (Association) is a partnership of charter schools, employees, volunteers, educators, policy-makers, legislators, businesses, and public supporters who believe that choice, collaboration and positive competition, using high quality public charter schools, are due the parents and children of North Carolina and represent good public policy!
We are the state’s largest and leading charter advocate, with full time services providing education, legislative oversight, school services, training workshops and conferences, communications forums, and leveraging the sector’s buying power working with our business partners.
The Association is a not for profit, non partisan organization based in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a mission of helping grow and sustain high quality public charter schools that nourish North Carolina’s children and enrich their families.
Guiding Principles behind legislative agenda
* The Association recognizes the fundamental need for an effective provision of education by the public and for the public, and that the implementation and support of public charter schools is a highly desirable part of that provision.
* The Association opposes any legislation that may redefine public charter schools by removing the critical elements of choice, accountability, and autonomy.
Methodology behind formulation of legislative agenda
The Association held three announced roundtable meetings to assess the legislative agenda for 2015, attended by about 50 charter heads of schools or designees. These were October 27, November 5 and 12, at Triangle Math & Science (Triangle), North Carolina Leadership Academy (Triad), and Langtree Charter (Charlotte region), respectively. All the legislative ideas (43) that were supported by the majority present at the meetings were listed on a survey and sent to all charter schools and the meeting attendees. The survey asked for a rating of 1 to 10 for each issue, with a 10 being of the highest importance. Of the 43 issues surveyed, the top 25 were listed in the order ranked and integrated into the agenda following. The 15-member Association Board of Advisors then voted to accept the list with zero “No” votes.
Thus, there is broad public charter school support for this agenda.
While there is overlap among the items, our agenda encompasses the three “Rs”,
1. Relief with funding,
2. Relief with facilities, and
3. Relief with the administrative and regulatory burden.
Relief with Funding
While we are used to doing more with less, we nevertheless have concerns about federal, state, and local funds that are not being shared fairly with our schools. A May, 2014, University ofArkansas study found that NC charters annually receive an average of $1,722 less per student than district schools. In addition to revenue, we have included measures involving our costs of operating.
Review and amend the statutes regarding charter state and local funding, including the equitable inclusion of items in the “Current Expense Fund,” to ensure that taxpayer money does indeed follow the child.
Remove barriers to obtaining grants that arise as a result of charters’ status versus LEAs.
Modify the ADM headcount calculation to more fairly determine student enrollment for funding purposes.
Review the overall structure of charter funding including the flow of funds among the counties, the LEAs, the state, and the charter schools.
Reform revenue funding for Exceptional Students to make more proportional to cost of services and recognize the disproportional burden on charters attracting this population.
Allow for charters to charge usual and customary fees, such as athletic participation fees, when their respective LEA could charge such fees.
Assist charters with grant funding including start-up federal CSP grants for new charters.
Remove the ill-conceived $50,000 “dissolution” escrow.
Eliminate (and refund) the charter renewal $1,000 fee. We should reward our volunteer charter boards for their dedication, not charge them for it.
Accelerate a reasonable portion of the state projected ADM allotment to a new charter after SBE final approval but months before school opening.
Allow for charter and charter support organization funding by municipalities and counties.
Relief with Facilities
The funding deficit mentioned above would equate to about $860,000 a year for an average 500 student NC charter. The largest majority of that deficit lies in the fact that our charters do not get money for facilities. An unintended consequence of this is that it impacts academic performance due to the attention and resources facilities demand.
Provide for a per-pupil state facilities revenue allotment to partially offset the facilities funding gap.
Share education lottery capital funds with charters.
Provide for more time between the charter final approval and/or the granting of a charter contract, and the opening of new charters to allow for a reasonable and prudent progression of facilities acquisition and access.
Remove artificial barriers to facilities access such as those that may exist in permitting and slow assistance from governmental agencies such as DOT.
Relief with Administrative & Regulatory Burden, and other
While the NC charter “Operations” statute says, “a charter school is exempt from statutes and rules applicable to a local board of education,” there have been, over time, mounds of reports and regulations arbitrarily applied to charters. We believe that the intent of this language, along with the law’s verbiage directing the schools not to be a non-governmental unit, but instead, a “nonprofit corporation,” clearly suggests that the goal was to free the new entities of unnecessary paperwork and regulations, increasing their odds of accomplishing the six charter school “purposes” found in the statutes. A 2014 Association survey revealed that charter heads of school spend 68% of their time on non-instructional administration.
Create a study of all reports and policies applied to charters, written or unwritten and outside the NC General Statutes, to ascertain that they are necessary and carry out the purposes of the charter statutes, without unreasonably burdening the small administrative staffs of charter schools.
Do not place any more stringent requirements regarding transportation and meals than currently exist.
Improve DPI support to charters for PowerSchool, plus access to the NCEdJobs applicant pool and Human Resource Management System.
Replace or adjust the 60% Performance Composite requirement and redesign an “academic floor” using a more extensive emphasis on academic growth, or educational value added, over proficiency.
Ensure more charter school representation on education related appointive committees.
Modify or delay the “School Performance Grades” that measure school academic performance based on the “indicators available” when new charters will be mischaracterized due to not having many of the indicators.
Increase the supply of science and math educators.
Enhance new charter schools authorization: provide for greater ability of the applicant to explain the application in person, install an independent appeals process for applicants denied, award final approval and the charter contract earlier, place more emphasis on the substance of the applications versus the form, and implement a formal public hearing portion of advisory board meetings to increase transparency and board accountability.
We have not included some very significant charter issues such as replication, virtual charters, and multiple authorizers, in this agenda since we did not have significant discussion in our meetings. Nevertheless, these issues are important to us and we would be happy to be part of legislative debate thereon.
Please be aware that behind each item included herein there either exists or can be created, information supporting the need, reference to specific statutes or policies, anecdotal and statistical information, and talking points for the item. We will also be happy to provide school personnel to address questions personally and/or our lobbyists to appear before any legislative body.
Please do not hesitate to request our support to help with this information for you.
The Board of Advisors, NCPCSA
Carroll Reed, Southern Wake Academy
Cynthia McQueen, Torchlight Academy
Dave Machado, Lincoln Charter
Eugene Slocum, Alpha Academy
Heather Soja, Uwharrie Charter
Jennifer Lucas, Voyager Academy
John Eldridge, Chatham Charter
Kirby McCrary, Millennium Charter
Antoinette Ellison, INVEST Collegiate
Natalie Brozy, Roxboro Community
Rudy Swofford, Summerfield Charter Academy
Simon Johnson, Quality Education
Steve McAdams, Endeavor
Tom McCarthy, Arapahoe Charter
Executive Director, Eddie Goodall
Governmental Relations Consultant, Jim Stegall
Director of Operations, Aletha Buck
Public Relations Director, Lee Teague
Director of School Support, Mary Catherine Sauer