Charter Schools Face New Penalties
Special Report - April 7, 2008
North Carolina charter schools that fail to hire enough licensed teachers will now lose some state funding, and could face the possible revocation of their charter, according to new rules adopted this month by the State Board of Education (SBOE). Charter schoolswhich are public schools governed by independent boards of directors that are free from many of the burdensome regulations placed on traditional public schoolsare already required under state law to employ a minimum number of licensed teachers. For example, North Carolina General Statute 115C-238.29F(e)(1) states: “The charter school’s board of directors shall employ and contract with necessary teachers to perform the particular service for which they are employed in the school; at least seventy-five percent (75%) of these teachers in grades kindergarten through five, at least fifty percent (50%) of these teachers in grades six through eight, and at least fifty percent (50%) of these teachers in grades nine through 12 shall hold teacher certificates.”
The SBOE’s action on April 3 revises the board’s “Financial and Governance Non-Compliance Policy for Charter Schools” by adding a financial penalty for failing to meet the law’s requirements for licensed teachers. According to the News and Observer, Melissa Bartlett, who chairs the SBOE committee that recommended the changes for the current non-compliance policy, said, “We’re not raising the standards. We’re simply helping charter schools to comply with the standards.”
Under the revised policy, a charter school that does not have enough licensed teachers by the beginning of the school year will lose state funding in the amount of the director or headmaster’s salary. If the school is noncompliant the following month, additional state funding will be withheld equal to the amount of the highest paid non-certified teacher’s salary at the school. Every month after this that the school is not in compliance, additional funding equal to the amount of the next highest teacher’s salary will be withheld from the school. According to the revised SBOE policy, “If the charter school is non-compliant in teacher certification as of February 1 of the current academic year, the Department of Public Instruction will recommend to the State Board of Education revocation of the school’s charter at the end of the academic year.” In addition to these penalties, the SBOE policy requires that the non-compliant charter school “shall not use state or federal funds to pay the individual for whom the state has reduced the allocation.” Charter schools that comply with the policy will have their state funding restored for the remainder of the school year.
Nearly 30,000 students attend charter schools in North Carolina. State law requires that no more than 100 charter schools operate in the state at one time. Although bills that would lift the cap have been introduced in the General Assembly for the past several years, none have been approved.
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