Category

Legislation

U.S. Senate passes bipartisan resolution celebrating charter schools

By Legislation, News

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan resolution honoring and celebrating public charter schools. The resolution follows National Charter Schools Week, which took place May 9-15 amidst celebrations and recognitions.

The Senate resolution congratulates the “students, families, teachers, leaders, and staff of public charter schools across the United States” for their contributions to public education. It notes the “impressive strides” charter schools have made in closing the achievement gap. In addition, the resolution recognizes that charter schools have helped to improve and strengthen the U.S. public school system.

Read a blog post about the resolution from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools here. As the Alliance notes, the resolution was sponsored by Senator Tim Scott, R-SC, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers:

  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO
  • Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN
  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ
  • Sen. John Boozman R-AR
  • Sen. Mike Braun, R-IN
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA
  • Sen. Thomas Carper, D-DE
  • Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX
  • Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-ND
  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA
  • Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-TN
  • Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY
  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL
  • Sen. Rick Scott, R-FL
  • Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC
  • Sen. Pat Toomey, R-PA
  • Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-AL
  • Sen. Roger Wicker, R-MS
  • Sen. Todd Young, R-IN

Read the full U.S. Senate resolution here.

New COVID relief funding coming to NC charter schools

By COVID-19, Legislation
New COVID relief funds are coming soon to NC charter schools. Last Thursday, the NC House passed S 172–Additional COVID-19 Response & Relief. The bill was ratified later that day. Yesterday, Governor Cooper signed the bill into law.
S 172 includes $3,224,272,535 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. The bill also includes $21.5 million for charter and residential schools. Read House Speaker Tim Moore’s press release about the legislation here.

A $400 per pupil funding floor for charter schools

S 172 sets a minimum funding floor for relief of $400 per ADM for charters. See Section 3.5 of the ratified bill — Minimum (floor) funding for public school units, with or without Title I eligibility. The legislation ensures that $2o million is placed in reserve for this purpose, and that non-Title I charter schools are not excluded from the funding allocation.
The Coalition was responsible for securing this funding for charter schools. Our Government Relations Team also worked hard to get funding relief to this level.
The first time the state distributed ESSER funds, we had to negotiate with the State Board of Education (SBE). This time with ESSER III funds, we took action on two important fronts:
  • We kept SBE out of the decision-making process.
  • We negotiated an amount with lawmakers of $400 per ADM for charters.
This is by far the largest pot of ESSER funds to date. Here’s a round-up of the ESSER fund distributions to charters:
  • For ESSER I, the funding floor was $45 per ADM.
  • For ESSER II, the funding floor was $180 per ADM.
  • For ESSER III, the funding floor is $400 per ADM.
We are proud of the work the Coalition’s Government Relations Team has done to secure this funding, at this level, for our state’s charter schools!

Anti-charter legislation and this legislative session

By Legislation, News

We have passed the crossover deadline in the General Assembly!

Last Thursday, May 13, marked crossover in the General Assembly. As a result, bills that do not include any appropriations must have passed either the House or Senate chamber by this deadline. Bills that do not cross over are no longer eligible to be considered for the remainder of the 2021-22 legislative session.
Read a recent summary from EdNC here about education legislation that survived crossover.
For charter schools, there is some good news moving forward! During this session, lawmakers have been considering TWO charter school omnibus bills. These bills are quite different. The first bill, H 729, contains provisions favorable to charters. The second bill, H 920, is an anti-charter bill that includes provisions  restricting charter autonomy in significant ways.

Charter Schools Omnibus (H 729)

H 729 passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 63-52, and has now moved on to the Senate. This bill would enable charters to provide blended instruction; would authorize counties to provide charters with capital funds; would ensure funding parity for charters; and would permit charter teachers to receive residency licensure. Access the bill history for H 729 here.
Last Wednesday, the Coalition sent out a statewide call to action, asking charter leaders to contact their representatives in the House regarding an amendment to H 729. That amendment, which would have removed Part II (authorizing counties to provide charters with capital funds), failed. Thank you for taking action! As we mentioned above, the bill then went on to pass the House.

A special thank-you to Rep. Brockman

We would especially like to share our appreciation with Rep. Cecil Brockman (D) – Guilford for voting in favor of H 729. Please feel free to contact him to thank him for his support of public charter schools. He can be reached at Cecil.Brockman@ncleg.gov or 919.733.5825.

Charter School Omnibus (H 920)

We have also been tracking a second, and very different, charter omnibus bill, filed on May 10. H 920 – Charter School Omnibus would severely restrict charter autonomy. Fortunately, this bill did not “cross over” to the Senate. As a result, it will not move forward.
Here is the list of H 920’s sponsors:
This bill is a clear and concerning example of what could await charter schools if we do not remain alert and vigilant about protecting charter autonomy. It’s also a stark reminder of the importance of working to elect charter supporters to the legislature, no matter the party.
While the bill did not cross over, any of the mandates in it could appear as amendments to other bills. Maintaining charter autonomy in the face of legislative threats such as this one is the reason why the Coalition is in Raleigh! We are committed to safeguarding your autonomy as charter leaders.

Charter supporters prevail in pro-charter legislation

By Legislation

Charter supporters had a big win yesterday!

An amendment stripping a funding provision from charter legislation has failed.

Yesterday, House Republicans decided not to move an amendment forward that would have stripped Part II from House Bill 729 – Charter Schools Omnibus. That section of the bill allows a county commission to give funding to a charter school for facility use.

Rep. von Haefen, (D) from Wake County, submitted the amendment on the House floor as lawmakers discussed the bill. However, lawmakers fended off the amendment, ultimately passing H 729 by a vote of 63-52.

A call to action

Prior to the vote, the Coalition rallied charter leaders and supporters, urging them to contact their representatives. The Coalition asked them to urge lawmakers to support H 729 as written. We suggested the following talking points:

  • The bill would give the RIGHT, NOT the REQUIREMENT, for county commissioners to provide charters with capital, technology, or furniture and fixtures funding.
  • The terms under which the funding is furnished is at the discretion of the county commissioners.
  • The bill explicitly requires a deed of trust for the amount provided for real property. This means the county would be paid first if the property is ever sold, unless it agrees otherwise.

Thanks to the efforts of charter school supporters, the bill stays alive with Part II and moves to the Senate!

Charters encouraged, not required, to provide summer learning

By Legislation, News

The summer learning law has been signed. What are charters required to do?

First, a recap:

Governor Cooper signed HB 82, now Session Law 2021-7, on April 9. The law requires school districts to develop learning recovery programs for Summer 2021. But, what does the law require of charters?

Here’s the bottom line:

Charters are not mandated to provide summer learning programs. They are encouraged to do so. Coalition lobbyists worked to keep charters out of this mandate–and protect charters’ autonomy. Charters can continue to serve their students as they see best.
Ultimately, charter schools follow an accountability model that is “performance-based”– not rule-based. They have freedom to do what they believe works best for their students, whether that’s summer learning or fall enrichment. They are responsible for the performance of their students.

Guidance from the State Board of Education:

Last week, the State Board of Education approved guidance for SL 2021-7.
Charters that intend to provide summer learning are encouraged BUT not required to submit a plan. The Office of Charter Schools will inform schools about submitting plans later this month. Schools should use ESSER II funds for their summer programs.

More reading:

The nonpartisan Center on Reinventing Public Education reviewed summer learning plans for 100 urban and large school districts. Read their assessment here.
Read a WRAL recap of SBE actions here.

Legislative update on bills with impacts for charters

By Legislation
Here’s the latest on three bills in the General Assembly with impacts for charters. We’ll post more in the coming days, as bills progress.
Timely payments to charters

H 335 – Timely Local Payments to Charter Schools has made crossover and is now in the Senate. The bill passed the House with only two “no” votes, showing the effectiveness of what can happen when we work in conjunction with the NC School Boards Association. H 335 would revise requirements regarding LEA payments to charters to “incentivize the timely transfer of funds.”

*The crossover deadline this year is Thursday, May 13. To maintain eligibility for consideration for the rest of the 2021-22 legislative session, all bills must pass either the House or Senate chamber by this crossover deadline.

Blended learning  

The Coalition is tracking S 654, K-12 COVID-19 Provisions. This bill addresses state statute regarding school performance grades, annual report cards, designations of low-performing schools, and remote learning, among other things. S 654 encompasses public school units, so its provisions apply to charters.

We are concerned that the bill restricts what charters are able to offer in terms of blended learning. We’re talking with school leaders and lawmakers, with the view of looking potentially at another vehicle for blended learning options.

Reducing duplication work  

H 163 Treasury Administrative Changes AB is an agency bill generated by the Treasurer’s office. Language in this bill would reduce duplication work for charters regarding audits. This bill passed the House and was referred to the Senate Rules Committee on April 15.