President Wants Charter Cap Repealed
Special Report - June 15, 2009
President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are calling on states like North Carolina to remove limitations on public charter schools. The move is part of the administration’s attempt to aid states in school reform partly by developing “a network of innovative and high-achieving charter schools.” In a press release, Secretary Duncan warned that “states that do not have public charter laws or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race to the Top Fund,” a more than $4 billion pot of money included in the stimulus bill to reward states for education innovations.
According to the press release, the obstacles to education reform include 10 states not allowing public charter schools, enrollment restrictions on charter schools, and limits or moratoriums on the number of new charter schools in a state. It went on to point out that “These actions are restricting reforms, limiting choices for parents and students, and denying children access to new high-quality instruction.” Of the 40 states that currently allow charter schools, 26 have some type of cap. North Carolina’s 11 year old charter school law caps the number of charter schools allowed in the state at any given time at 100. New applicants must wait for an existing school’s charter to be revoked by the state or voluntarily relinquished to even be considered. President Obama, according to the release, “has called upon states to encourage the expansion of charter schools [by lifting] these caps and other barriers to having a healthy network of charter schools throughout the country.”
Secretary Duncan introduced governors to plans to make $350 million available to states by application to establish national standardized tests during a governors’ meeting in Cary, NC on June 14. Monies would be awarded based on how well states recruit and keep teachers, develop comprehensive student information systems, improve low-performing schools, and develop and participate in national standards to better measure and compare student performance. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Duncan stated “preference will go to states that do not limit the number of charter schools they allow or those that will agree to lift their charter school caps.”
At least 9 bills were introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly this session to raise or eliminate the current cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state. Only one, which would raise the current cap from 100 to 106, among other modifications, received any discussion. That bill, HB 856Modify Charter School Law, passed the House and is currently awaiting action in the Senate Education committee.
“We are in complete agreement with the Obama administration that caps on charter school growth and success like that in North Carolina are detrimental to educational integrity, quality, and opportunity available to our students,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “North Carolina’s charter schools have proven themselves to provide tremendous benefit to the public school system at large and to individual student needs. The General Assembly should take more than a decade of success as the primary reason to fully embrace and support charter schools without delay or arbitrary restriction.”
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