Monthly Archives

June 2024

OK Supreme Court rules religious charter school is unconstitutional

By News

In a 6-2 decision issued on Tuesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the nation’s first religious charter school is unconstitutional and violates state and federal law. Oklahoma’s Virtual Charter School Board approved the school, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, in June 2023. Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond then sued the Charter Board.

In issuing its opinion, the Court concluded:

Under Oklahoma law, a charter school is a public school. As such, a charter school must be nonsectarian. However, St. Isidore will evangelize the Catholic faith as part of its school curriculum while sponsored by the state. This state’s establishment of a religious charter school violates Oklahoma statutes, the Oklahoma Constitution, and the Establishment Clause. St. Isidore cannot justify its creation by invoking Free Exercise rights as a religious entity. St. Isidore came into existence through its charter with the state and will function as a component of the State’s public school system. This case turns on the State’s contracted-for religious teachings and activities through a new public charter school, not the State’s exclusion of a religious entity. The Constitution grants the extraordinary declaratory relief sought by the State. The St. Isidore Contract violates state and federal law and is unconstitutional. By writ of mandamus, we direct the Charter School Board to rescind its contract with St. Isidore.

In response to the Court’s ruling, Eric Paisner, the acting CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, released this statement:

The National Alliance applauds the Oklahoma Supreme Court for affirming the unconstitutionality of religious public schools. The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s 6-2 decision is a resounding victory for the integrity of public education

All charter schools are public schools. The National Alliance firmly believes charter schools, like all other public schools, may not be religious institutions. We insist every charter school student must be given the same federal and state civil rights and constitutional protections as their district school peers. The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision reassures all Oklahoma families that their students’ constitutional rights are not sacrificed when they choose to attend a public charter school.

The National Alliance thanks Attorney General Drummond and his team for their tremendous work.  The National Alliance and our partners will continue to stand with people of Oklahoma who are fighting to uphold the constitution and preserve public education.

What’s next?

St. Isidore, which planned to open this fall, is expected to appeal the Court’s decision. Archbishop Paul Coakley, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and Bishop David Konderla, Diocese of Tulsa, issued a joint statement saying they would “consider all legal options.”

Analysis of the Court’s ruling, published by Education Next, indicates this case is just the “opening salvo” in debate over religious charter schools: “Even if no appeal is made in this case or if the Supreme Court declines to hear one, the thorny issues that the majority elided will come up again and need to be resolved.”

Read more

See coverage from AP, The Hill, USA Today, and The 74. View the Court’s opinion.

*This post has been updated since its original publication.

Coalition welcomes Win Group as corporate partner

By News

We are delighted to extend an official welcome to the Win Group as our newest corporate partner. Win Group is a health management consulting group providing a proactive Health Management Plan through a self-insured Section 125 Plan.  Charter school leaders may remember Win Group founder Bill Terryberry, who headed up Spider ERC. Bill has a strong record of experience working in the charter sector to optimize charter funding and employee retention.

Under this plan, the employee receives:

  • Zero copay for primary care doctor and urgent care visits.
  • A customized, self-managed health assessment plan.
  • Access to 24/7 telemedicine for self and up to 6 family members (plus pets).
  • Zero/$1 copay for 400-plus Tier 1 and Tier 2 drugs for self and family.
  • Net income increase (averaging $1,500 annually).

In addition, the employer receives:

  • Fixed FICA tax savings of $573.60 per qualified employee, per year.
  • A Health Management Plan that fosters a healthier and happier staff.
  • An added incentive for attracting and retaining the best talent available.

 PLEASE NOTE: This is a positive enhancement to major medical coverage. In fact, several providers are offering discounts on premiums, if this health management plan is in place. For more in-depth information, please contact Bill Terryberry at 910.724.9445 or
Bill@WinGroupConsulting.com.
Find the Win Group on the Coalition’s Preferred Vendors page in the Health Management Services section.

Coalition releases 2023 Annual Report, elects new officers

By News

We’ve just released our 2023 Coalition Annual Report. We’d love for you to take a look and learn more about our work in 2023, as we sought to protect and promote public charter schools in North Carolina. See how our work impacted the charter sector in our three core areas of advocacy, communications, and education!

In other Coalition news, we just seated new directors to our Board. All are incumbents who have previously served as directors. Last week, our directors also elected a new slate of officers for 2024-25:

  • Chair: Jonathan Bryant, Chief Administrator, Lincoln Charter School
  • Vice Chair: Dr. Shelly Shope, Headmaster, Pinnacle Classical Academy
  • Treasurer: Gregg Sinders, Board Member, Pine Springs Preparatory Academy; North Carolina Development Director, Charter One
  • Secretary: Helen Nance, Chief Administrative Officer, Gray Stone Day School

See the list of directors and officers for 2024-25 here. Thank you to these talented charter leaders for their ongoing service!

Click on the image below to access the Annual Report. Thanks to Brian Jodice for his work on report design.

Despite long waitlists, NC charter school growth is flatlining. Why?

By News

There’s a puzzling paradox for public education in North Carolina right now. This past year, charter schools reported over 85,000 students on waitlists. But when school opens for the 2024-25 school year in August, there will be no increase in the number of charter schools. Veteran education reporter Ann Doss Helms, who noted the shift following more than a decade of steady growth trend data, has written about flat growth in a new WFAE story. This year, she writes, will be the first with no increase in the number of charter schools since lawmakers lifted the 100-school cap back in 2011.

Why is that?

Charter school facilities are hard to find and fund

Flat charter school growth is due to a couple of converging factors. First, state leaders closed two charter schools this year, and only two new charter schools are opening in August. Those two schools, which received final approval to open at last week’s Charter Schools Review Board meeting, are American Leadership Academy-Monroe (K-8 charter school in Monroe) and Riverside Leadership Academy (K-7 charter school in New Bern).

Still, any simple recounting of closures and openings does not capture the full story. Seven other charter schools were originally slated to open in 2024, and all of those schools ended up requesting a delay year. As others have noted, it has become increasingly difficult to open a charter school. Why? For many charter schools, finding and funding a facility is the single most challenging obstacle—and it is much harder than it needs to be.

We’ll cover much more around facility challenges in the coming months, but parents and other charter supporters who care about charter growth need to understand the gravity of the problem and how it’s impacting the charter movement. Unlike district schools, North Carolina charter schools–which are also freepublic, and open to all students–do not receive any separate facility funding. Instead, they must pay for their own facilities through loans, grants, operating funds, or other sources.

Lindalyn Kakadelis, the Coalition’s executive director, outlined the dilemma for the state’s charter sector:

Unfortunately, the number of North Carolina charter schools next year will stay flat for the first time since 2011, when lawmakers removed the 100-school cap. No growth stands in direct opposition to what the state’s parents want. The best measures of unmet demand, charter school waitlists show more families than ever want access to a charter school for their child. Yet outdated and unfair policies are making it harder for new schools to find and finance facilities. That fixable problem, and not a decline in demand, is why we will see no growth in the number of schools for 2024-25.

Other states aren’t waiting to act. Nevada lawmakers recently established a $100 million revolving loan fund managed by the State Infrastructure Bank (with $15 million in public dollars and another $85 million from private philanthropy partners) to provide charters with facilities loans. Five other states have revolving loan programs “that self-replenish by using interest and principal payments from one loan to make new loans to other charter schools,” notes the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in a state policy snapshot. It’s a great model for North Carolina to consider as well.

 

New 2024 Charter Attainment Profiles from My Future NC

By News

At last week’s State Board of Education meeting, members heard a presentation from MyFutureNC CEO Cecilia Holden about progress to date on educational attainment goals for North Carolina. Holden’s presentation included a call to action for school boards (district as well as charter), urging them to adopt local attainment goals and measure progress for students enrolled in college-level classes–as well as MyFutureNC performance indicators.

View Cecilia Holden’s presentation to SBE or click on the above left image.

MyFutureNC has developed a new dashboard highlighting county attainment profiles–and also including state and regional profiles with data about district schools as well as charter schools.

Statewide figures on charter schools show:

  • 82% of charter school graduates plan to enroll in a post-secondary institution (and 69% did so within 12 months).
  • 86% of students who enroll in college persist to the second year.
  • 71% of students who enroll go on to earn a degree or certificate within 6 years.
  • 43% of high school students participated in the state’s Career & College Promise programs.
  • 27% of high school students took at least one AP exam.

Here are the statewide profiles:

These are the charters-only profiles, by region:

New survey data: NC charter teachers are happy at work

By News

New survey findings presented this morning to the Charter Schools Review Board offer an encouraging report about job satisfaction among the state’s charter school teachers. More than 9 in 10 are proud of their schools and feel good about working there.

Dr. Jeni Corn, the director of the Office of Research and Evaluation at the Department of Public Instruction, shared the findings in a presentation with disaggregated charter school data.  Data come from the 2024 North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey. Regarding charter school teachers’ high levels of job satisfaction, Dr. Corn stated, “This is data to be celebrated.”

Here are some highlights about what the state’s charter teachers think:

  • 93% believe their school is “a good place to work and learn.”
  • 93% say they’re proud to work at their school.
  • 91% believe they are are “an important part” of their school.
  • 89% say they feel loyal to their school.
  • 83% say there is “an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect” at their school.

The slide below summarizes these items relevant to teacher retention:

Dr. Jeni Corn, “CSRB Update: 2024 NC Teacher Working Conditions,” Presentation to the Charter Schools Review Board, June 11, 2024.

Who responded to the survey?

  • 72% of NC charter schools had a greater than 50% completion rate (the minimum threshold to receive school-level data back).
  • Overall, the charter sector had a 68% teacher response rate. Most survey participants, 88%, were classroom teachers (6,986 out of 10,279 total respondents). Other respondents worked in school services, and included school counselors, school psychologists, instructional coaches, and more.
  • More than half (54%) of survey respondents were experienced educators.

“CSRB Update: 2024 NC Teacher Working Conditions.”

View Dr. Corn’s presentation here. Listen to the audio from the presentation this morning. (Dr. Corn’s presentation is at the beginning of the video.)

Community Public Charter School Chosen for National Dance Video

By News

We have exciting news to share about one of our member schools and National School Choice Week (NSCW) in 2025.  Community Charter School, a K-9 public charter school in Stanley, North Carolina, will participate in the dance video launching the national celebration of school choice. Congratulations, CCS!

CCS won the Coalition’s dance video contest for National School Choice Week (NSCW) in 2024. (Read more about that here and here.) CCS created a completely winsome and inspirational video, based on National School Choice Week’s song and dance moves for the year. Dance teacher Christie Stuckey, a former member of East Carolina University’s Dance Team, led school efforts to produce the video. Clips from that video headlined NSCW’s 2024 recap video, with a feature in the national newsletter.

For 2025, NSCW coordinators have asked Ms. Stuckey to make the national video with her students. Each year, coordinators choose a school to record the dance moves for other schools across the country.

Lindalyn Kakadelis, the Coalition’s executive director, recommended CCS and Ms. Stuckey to produce the video for National School Choice Week. Upon hearing of the school’s selection, Ms. Kakadelis said,

I’m delighted Christie Stuckey and her CCS students have been selected to produce the national video in 2025, in celebration of school choice. In 2024, this innovative public charter school captured the true spirit of educational choice in North Carolina and its transformative impact on students. I know they’ll do it for the nation in 2025!

In selecting CCS, LaQuita Hudson, the school participation coordinator for NCSW, said,

We are very excited to work with Ms. Stuckey and her Community Charter School students! They choreographed and recorded an amazing dance performance in 2024. I know they’ll utilize their creativity through our 2025 dance to help us communicate the ideals–and dance moves–of National School Choice Week to schools and supporters all across the country.

Christie Stuckey of CCS said:

Being able to use my passion for dance and students as a career is the ultimate dream job. I can’t say enough how thankful I am for my school and this opportunity we have been given. I’m so excited to create next year’s NSCW dance!

In case you missed it, we’re sharing CCS’s 2024 video below:

Pinnacle Classical Academy to Host State Archery Championship

By News

Pinnacle Classical Academy, a K-12 public charter school in Shelby, North Carolina, will host a state archery competition on Saturday. Last year, the Pinnacle Thunderbirds placed third in the country at the Scholastic 3-D Archery (S3DA) 3D National Championship in Rend Lake, Illinois. Makenzie Glenn, a 9th grader, won the Individual S3DA National Championship (youth female pins division).  (Read more about those accomplishments here.)

Pinnacle has provided the following information about this year’s statewide competition:

Pinnacle Classical Academy will host the North Carolina Scholastic 3-D Archery (S3DA) State Championship on Saturday, June 8, at its grade 4-12 campus on Joes Lake Rd. in Shelby.

Check-in begins at 7:30 AM, with an 8:30 safety meeting and a 9:00 AM shotgun start. Concessions, including various food items, will be available during breakfast and lunch hours.

The North Carolina S3DA State Championship is open to the public with free admission. Members of the community are invited to cheer on the PCA Thunderbirds — whose archers have won multiple state and national championships — as well as talented archers from other teams.

Pinnacle Classical Academy is a free public charter school in Shelby that attracts 1,165 students from five counties. PCA’s elementary school, middle school, and high school are all ranked among America’s best schools by U.S. News & World Report.

At last year’s national archery competition, the Pinnacle Thunderbirds placed third in the country. Photo credit: Pinnacle Classical Academy.

Learn more about this year’s competition on Pinnacle’s Facebook page. Pinnacle is a Coalition member school led by Dr. Shelly Shope, who serves on the Coalition’s Board of Directors.

Incumbent Directors Re-elected to the Coalition Board

By News
Last week, Designated Representatives from Coalition member schools voted to elect members to the Coalition Board of Directors. Elections filled four seats on the Coalition’s 13-member Board. Coalition Counsel Matthew Tilley announced the election results at the Coalition’s annual meeting on Thursday, May 30.

Here are the nominees who were re-elected to terms on the Coalition Board:

All four nominees are incumbent candidates who previously served on the Coalition Board.
In addition, we want to thank Philip Adkins, Michael Satterfield, and Eugene Slocum for their willingness to step forward as nominees for the Coalition Board. We look forward to working with these talented charter leaders in other significant ways.
Newly elected Board members will be seated at the Thursday, June 13, meeting of the Coalition’s Board of Directors. Congratulations, re-elected Coalition Board members–and thank you for your ongoing service!