Monthly Archives

February 2023

It’s a Wrap: 2023 Coalition Charter Advocacy Summit

By News
Last week, the Coalition held its first-ever Charter Advocacy Summit in Raleigh! The event launched Tuesday evening with a reception at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. We had a great turnout–200 attendees!– and were pleased to welcome so many lawmakers, General Assembly staff members, and school leaders. On Wednesday morning, state lawmakers–Rep. Saine, Rep. Elmore, Sen. Lee, and Rep. Torbett–along with State Superintendent Truitt, industry experts, school leaders, and charter stakeholders, convened for the Summit at the Raleigh Crabtree Valley Marriott Hotel. Over 160 charter leaders and stakeholders attended the Summit.
Altogether, we had 87 schools represented at the reception and/or Summit!

Sessions and an honor for Coalition founder, Richard Vinroot

Summit sessions proceeded at a fast and engaging clip, covering the education budget, local funding, enrollment diversity, the charter legal landscape, and much more. Dave Machado, the former director of the Office of Charter Schools and Charter Schools USA’s State Superintendent for NC, had this to say about the Summit: “Best charter gathering I have ever attended.” We consider that high praise–and we’re delighted to hear it! In addition, we were honored to present Richard Vinroot, the Coalition’s founding board chair, with a commemorative plaque. We are deeply indebted to Richard for his expertise, leadership, vision, and generosity of time and spirit.

We share some photos below …

Rep. Frank Sossamon speaks with attendees at the reception honoring members of the N.C. General Assembly on February 21, 2023.

Lawmakers, including Sen. Mike Lee, speak with colleagues and attendees at the Coalition reception.

Shae Faraday and Rhon’ya Talib of the Frederick Douglass Foundation NC greet Summit participants.


  • Left: Rep. John Torbett speaks to Summit attendees about funding students rather than systems.
  • Middle: Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis stands with Alpha Academy CEO/Superintendent Eugene Slocum and State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.
  • Right: Former lawmaker Marcus Brandon speaks about the political challenges charter schools face.

A round of thanks

We also want to extend a huge thank you to all who joined us–we loved gathering to talk about how to leverage the power of public policy to protect all charters! We want to express our gratitude to our corporate sponsors, whose support made it possible for us to hold this event. THANK YOU!

Finally, we share a thank you to our distinguished roster of speakers, our Coalition Board and team–and to several others: Brian Jodice for his onsite media support, graphic designer Jeff Blair, and Shae Faraday and Rhon’ya Talib of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of NC, who helped with registration and check-in.

See you next year!

Summit resources

Pinnacle Classical Academy Celebrates Groundbreaking, School Expansion

By News

Last Friday, February 17, Pinnacle Classical Academy in Shelby, North Carolina, celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony for a new building project. Funded by a loan from the USDA, new construction will enable the public charter school to expands its offerings to students in grades 4-12. The building project will add classroom space and enlarge the school’s gymnasium, among other things.

Unlike district schools, public charter schools do not receive any capital funding for their facilities.


School and community leaders celebrate at a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, February 17, 2023, at Pinnacle Classical Academy. Pictured leaders include Sen. Debbie Clary (center left, in black and white), the school’s board chair, and Dr. Shelly Shope, the school’s headmaster and a member of the Coalition Board of Directors (center right, in red and black). Photo credit: Dr. Shelly Shope and The Gaston Gazette.

Read the school’s press release below:

Pinnacle Classical Academy broke ground on the second phase of its grade 4-12 campus on Joe’s Lake Road on February 17.

Representatives of T.C. Strickland Construction, Holland & Hamrick Architects, and the USDA joined students, faculty, and members of the board of directors at the groundbreaking. Speakers included Dr. Shelly Shope (the school’s headmaster), Sen. Debbie Clary (chair of the board of directors), Sen. Wes Westmoreland (board vice chair and facilities chair), and Nicholas Lattanzi of the USDA. Emily Bridges and Lydia Canipe, the presidents of the junior and senior classes, led the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the School Pledge.

Although Pinnacle Classical Academy is a public school, Pinnacle – like other charter schools – receives no capital funding and thus has relied on the USDA to help finance this $15 million project. The project will effectively double the footprint of the current school, adding roughly 60,000 square feet and expanding the gymnasium and locker rooms.

“This is our second major project with USDA, and we are so grateful for their help and support – there is simply no way we can meet the demands of Cleveland and surrounding counties for school choice without their financing,” said Clary.

“The growth we have experienced has put pressure on our facilities, particularly with the college classes offered here,” Dr. Shope added. “We are most anxious to add the additional classrooms, lab, and media space to our campus.”

Pinnacle is currently accepting applications for new students and will hold a lottery on Monday, March 13, at 6:00 PM. Applications are available online at, and students will be accepted on a random basis pending space availability.

“To have additional space will allow us to open even more spots for families looking for a unique, classical curriculum, academic rigor, successful safety record, and many athletic opportunities,” said Clary.

Pinnacle Classical Academy is a tuition-free public charter school with campuses on South Post Road (K-3) and Joe’s Lake Road (4-12) in Shelby. Consistently one of the state’s top-performing public school units, Pinnacle has 1,137 students in grades K-12 and more kindergarteners than any other school in Cleveland County.

Read more about the groundbreaking in the Shelby Star.

New “Charter 101” resource for parents, charter supporters

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The Coalition has a new “Charter 101” resource for charter parents and charter supporters. It’s an infographic with the latest facts and figures about charter schools in North Carolina.

For example, using the infographic you’ll find out:

  • The number of charter schools that currently operate in North Carolina
  • How many students attend public charter schools
  • What percentage of local funds charters receive compared to district schools
  • How charter school demographics compare to district and state demographics

….And much more! Click here or on the image below to access the infographic.

Take Action to support federal charter school funding

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The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently sent out a call to action about charter funding. Leaders are asking Congress for more dollars for public charter schools–and they need your support. As a result, the Alliance is urging charter advocates to contact their members of Congress with a request for additional funds for the federal Charter Schools Program.

Here’s the write-up from the Alliance about that campaign:

The Charter Schools Program (CSP) is the nation’s only source of federal funding for new, expanding, and replicating charter schools. Still, it has been flat-funded at $440 million for the past four years—less than 1% of the country’s total public education budget.
We are asking Congress for $500 million to ensure charter schools are able to continue to open in the communities that want and need them. It is particularly important that CSP funding effectively supports charter school facilities. Contact your Members of Congress to remind them to protect all children’s access to a high-quality, public education.
Click here to send an email to your members of Congress.

Charter parent spotlight: ‘Pandemic learning was an awakening’

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Charter parent spotlight:  Christine Stine of ALA-Johnston

‘Pandemic learning was an awakening for parents’

Stories of school change during the pandemic are legion by now, having prompted numerous news articles as well as research inquiry. Last week, for instance, a new Stanford study, published by the Urban Institute, revealed that sizable percentages of students left public schools for private and home schools. Some 240,000 former public school students are still unaccounted for, three years later.  Clearly, pandemic-era enrollment shifts have been seismic—with impacts that linger.

For Christine Stine and her family, pandemic disruption led to a breakthrough school option they had never before considered. The Stines’ schooling journey was a roundabout one, leading from private school to home school, and ultimately, to a public charter school.

“Pandemic learning was an awakening for parents,” Christine, a mother of three from Clayton, affirms. “It was a beautiful thing to be a part of that awakening and watch so many people I know realize that maybe this wasn’t the direction they wanted to go with their children.”

When the pandemic arrived, Christine was working at the private school that her daughter, Abby, attended. “Abby was in private school until fourth grade, when the world went nuts,” she says. “We decided that we weren’t going to take part in that, so we pulled her.”

The Stines decided to homeschool Abby for two years, along with their son, James. Their third child,  Eleanor, was born during this time. Even as the Stines began their homeschooling odyssey, they were presented with another option. A newly approved and nearby charter school, American Leadership Academy (ALA)-Johnston, reached out: Were the Stines interested in joining an interest list? Curious, Christine signed on.

Two years later, the school building was in place; this fall, Abby enrolled in ALA-Johnston’s 6-12 campus for 7th grade. Just before the start of school, James was admitted to first grade at ALA-Johnston’s K-5 campus.

James Stine, a 1st grader, and his sister, Abby, a 7th grader, attend American Leadership Academy-Johnston in Clayton, North Carolina. Photo credit: Christine Stine.

At ALA, a focus on patriotism, citizenship, and independent thinking

What drew the Stines away from homeschooling and toward public charter school? Christine says she loves the patriotism that pervades ALA’s campus and curriculum, as well as the school’s focus on citizenship and independent thinking. It’s an ethos, she says, of “pride in country and pride in teaching children how to be respectable, productive members of society, yet teaching them to think on their own.” Raising independent thinkers had, in fact, been a “huge draw” for her family with homeschooling, she says. ALA felt like familiar territory, and it felt right.

The Stines were also impressed with ALA’s emphasis on character education. “The ideals that ALA touts are the very same ones that my husband and I want instilled in our children,” Christine says. ALA’s core values form the acronym RAISE: Respect, Accountability, Integrity, Service, Excellence.

“What parent wouldn’t want his or her child educated under those five principles?” Christine asks. “These kids are being taught how to be themselves but in a manner that will gain them respect. That’s what my husband and I want. That was the biggest draw for us,” she says of ALA. “The teachers don’t just preach the RAISE values. They show them and they live them.”

The biggest part for me is that it is a choice’

In the end, the exigencies of the pandemic and the benefits of public school choice coalesced to prompt the Stines’ charter school awakening.  Still, “charter schools are not for everyone,” Christine acknowledges. “We all have different ideals, and we all raise our children differently.  The past couple of years were crazy but they were so needed. Parents could look at options. I would never have looked at a charter school.”

She is most passionate about the freedom she and her husband have to direct their children’s education. “The biggest part for me is that it is a choice. I am choosing to send my children here,” she says. “There’s no greater feeling as a parent than knowing you have input with your child’s education.”

Some 240,000 students left public schools during the pandemic and haven’t returned

By News

A new study released yesterday reveals startling–and enduring–K-12 enrollment changes from the pandemic. Results, summarized in this Urban Institute policy brief, show that 240,000 students left public schools during the pandemic and never came back … to any school on record. These students, the analysis found, did not pivot to private or home schools. Nor did they move out of state. “They’re missing,” as this Associated Press story notes.

Stanford research yields answers-and more questions

Led by Stanford researcher Thomas Dee in conjunction with Big Local News and AP reporters, the study evaluated data from 21 states, including North Carolina, as well as the District of Columbia. Dee and his colleagues looked at pandemic-era K-12 enrollment figures between Fall 2019 and Spring 2022. They found that in these states and DC:

  • The move to private school accounted for 14% of public school enrollment losses.
  • Shifts to home school were larger, representing 26% of the public school enrollment downturn.
  • The drop in the school-age population also had an impact, accounting for 26% of the public school enrollment decline.

Still, researchers cannot account for one-third of the students who left public schools. Here’s the summary from the Urban Institute brief:

The data reveal that two of the primary explanations for the public school pandemic exodus are an increase in homeschooling and a decrease in the school-age population. But these two trends cannot explain the entire enrollment drop. The large amount of public school enrollment loss that, in many states, cannot be explained by changes in nonpublic enrollment and demographics suggests the possibility of other developmentally relevant behaviors (e.g., kindergarten skipping, unregistered homeschooling, and truancy) that merit further research.

Here’s a table from Dee’s study, showing the magnitude of change.

Source: Thomas Dee, “Where the Kids Went: Nonpublic Schooling and Demographics Change during the Pandemic Exodus from Public Schools,” Urban Institute essay, February 2023.

Read more about the study from Stanford News and CBS News.

Reminder: Advocacy Summit registration closes February 15!

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The Coalition’s 2023 Charter Advocacy Summit is two weeks away! See our invitation below. Please note that registration closes next Wednesday, February 15. We have an exciting list of confirmed speakers for the Summit. View the agenda here. To register, click here. Click here or below to access our invitation. We hope to see you there!
We also wish to thank our 2023 Summit sponsors, who have made this event possible.

Superintendent Truitt hosts final advisory meeting to redesign state’s accountability model

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Superintendent Truitt this week hosted the final meeting of her advisory group, engaged in efforts to redesign school performance grades. That group, known as the Testing and Accountability Group within Operation Polaris, has worked throughout the fall and winter months to develop an alternative to the state’s current accountability model.

Other updates and work still to come

Yesterday, the State Board of Education heard an update on the work to redesign school performance grades. Read more about potential school indicators from EdNC. In addition, lawmakers recently filed HB 26, Education Omnibus Bill, which includes language requiring the Superintendent to study school achievement, growth and performance–and report findings to House and Senate education committees by April 15, 2023. The bill also requires the Department of Public Instruction to submit a report to lawmakers with proposed revisions. Here’s the language in the bill about what should be in that report:

SECTION 4.(b) On or before February 15, 2024, the Department of Public Instruction shall submit a report to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee on suggested changes to the school evaluation model used in Part 1B of Article 8 of Chapter 115C 13 of the General Statutes. The report shall include at least the following: (1) Potential indicators to be considered when evaluating schools. (2) The differences between the potential indicators and the current school 16 performance indicators. (3) An analysis of whether the potential indicators will comply with federal law. (4) Recommended legislative changes to school performance indicators, scores, 19 and grades.