Expediting the charter application process in North Carolina

By April 24, 2023 Legislation, News

Tomorrow, the House Education – K-12 Committee will consider legislation that would expedite the approval of new charter applications in North Carolina. Known as House Bill 618, Charter School Review Board, the legislation would create one entity to approve all of the state’s charter applications, streamlining the application process and creating a system that more closely reflects families’ current educational needs and wishes. The bill is sponsored by Speaker Tim Moore, Rep. Destin Hall, Rep. Tricia Cotham, and Rep. David Willis.

Earlier today, Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis sent a letter to the House Education – K-12 Committee in support of H.B. 618 as well as H.B. 219, Charter School Omnibus. The letter is a joint expression of support from the Coalition and the North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools. The Coalition also distributed a press release today highlighting charter school waitlists and the obvious need for H.B. 618.

A current review process that is duplicative and inefficient

Currently, the state’s charter authorization process requires a review and recommendation from the state’s Charter Schools Advisory Board, followed by approval from the State Board of Education.

This process is duplicative, slow, and inefficient. Moreover, it has not kept pace with the wishes of North Carolina families. According to the state’s new annual charter report, the State Board of Education approves just 26% of yearly public charter school applications, on average. This figure represents the annual average of State Board approvals beginning in 1997, the year the state’s first charter schools opened their doors.

Screenshot from: “2022 Annual Charter Schools Report,” Report to the General Assembly, N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Growing demand for public charter schools

Since the charter movement launched in North Carolina some 25 years ago, families have expressed strong and growing support for these innovative and free public schools. In fact, the state’s new charter report indicates that more than 8 in 10 public charter schools, or 85%, reported waitlists, totaling over 77,000 students. This waitlist figure represents more than half of the state’s total charter school student population, which in 2022-23 is 137,541 students.

Fortunately, in expediting the charter approval process, H.B. 618 would also create greater efficiency and could thus build greater capacity. It would do this by converting the current Charter Schools Advisory Board into a Charter School Review Board with sole authority to approve applications for new charter schools. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction would also join the Review Board as a member. The State Board of Education would continue to provide oversight for education and policy matters, and would serve as an appellate body for Review Board decisions. This system, set forth in H.B. 618, would therefore create a new avenue for charter applicants and schools to appeal decisions on charters, renewals, revocations, and amendments.

New efficiencies for parents and families

In the Coalition’s press release today, Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis affirmed the clear need for H.B. 618, noting:

No other public school must go through these complex layers of statewide bureaucracy to open. The parents waiting to send their children to a public charter school deserve an efficient review process.

Read the bill summary for H.B. 618. Find out who represents you in the General Assembly.