Category

Legislation

Congressional Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Charter Funding Bill

By Legislation, News

 

Congressional lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives last week introduced companion legislation to a Senate bill that would provide start-up funds to charter schools. The bipartisan “Empower Charter School Educators to Lead Act” enables educators to use a portion of federal grant monies under the Charter Schools Program for the charter application and start-up process. Congresswoman Julia Letlow (R-LA), Congresswoman Jill Tokuda (D-HI), Congressman John James (R-MI), and Congressman Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ) are sponsoring the bill.

Right now, the federal Charter Schools Program does not allow grant funds to support charter school planning. This bill would change that, allowing states to award grants of up to $100,000 for pre-planning purposes. States would also be permitted to direct up to 5% of their federal grant funds for these planning awards.

Learn more

U.S. Senators Introduce Bill to Provide Charter Start-up Grants

By Legislation, News

A bipartisan group of eight U.S. Senators is seeking to provide pre-planning grants for new charter schools led by educators. Last week these lawmakers introduced the Empower Charter School Educators to Lead Act. If passed, the bill would leverage grants under the federal Charter Schools Program that would enable educators to plan and launch high quality public charter schools.

The senators sponsoring the bill include four Republicans and four Democrats: Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Scott (R-SC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mike Braun (R-IN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Brian Schatz (D-HI). Senator Cassidy is the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Primarily, the legislation would:

  • Enable state entities that receive federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) funds to award “pre-planning grants” to prospective charter applicants who are educators with at least five years’ experience.
  • Allow states to use up to 5% of their overall grant dollars for these special planning grants.
  • Create more capacity for states to allocate grant funds for technical assistance and quality improvement–and allow help finding a facility to be part of technical assistance.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools supports the legislation, as do a number of other charter organizations.

Read more:

  • The news release about the bill from the Senate HELP Committee.
  • A statement from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools supporting the bill.
  • An explanation of the federal Charter Schools Program.

Charter Omnibus & Charter Review Board Bills Become Law

By Legislation, News

Lawmakers voted late yesterday afternoon to override Governor Cooper’s vetoes of six bills, including H.B. 219, Charter School Omnibus, and H.B. 618, Charter School Review Board. As a result, both bills are now law: H.B. 219 has become Session Law 2023-107 and H.B. 618 has become Session Law 2023-110.

H.B. 219/Session Law 2023-107 makes a number of changes to current law impacting charter schools. The new law allows counties to provide funds for charter school capital needs, and limits enrollment caps to low-performing charter schools, among other things. The new law takes effect for this current 2023-24 school year.

H.B. 618/Session Law 2023-110 streamlines the charter approval and renewal process by converting the Charter Schools Advisory Board into a Charter School Review Board with the authority to approve new charter schools or grant renewals. Board decisions may be appealed to the State Board of Education, and the State Board retains its rule making authority. This change is effective immediately.

The Coalition’s direct role in securing passage of charter bills

The Coalition has worked intensively this session to advocate for both of these bills, and we are very pleased they have become law. Getting any bill passed–from the initial idea to actual enactment–is no small feat, requiring tremendous effort and support from numerous stakeholders. Here’s what that looked like this time around:

  • At the Coalition’s request, member schools began providing input on legislative session priorities, beginning in September 2022–almost a year ago.
  • The Coalition Board’s Legislative Committee then began work to develop a comprehensive legislative agenda for 2023.
  • Following deliberations and conversations with member schools, the full Coalition Board approved the legislative agenda.
  • The Coalition’s communications team worked to develop strategy and messaging around legislative priorities.
  • Coalition Counsel Matthew Tilley wrote these charter bills, submitting bill text to the General Assembly’s bill writers.
  • The Coalition’s Government Relations Team (including Harry Kaplan and Dylan Reel of McGuireWoods and Lee Teague of Teague Advocacy) led intensive lobbying efforts at the General Assembly. This is tireless work, and involves walking these bills through all steps of the committee process. H.B. 219, for instance, had five revisions prior to ratification, while H.B. 618 had three revisions.
  • Coalition members and other stakeholders contacted and met with lawmakers to express support for charter bills and to share input around charter interests.
  • Lawmakers in the House sponsored these bills, while additional lawmakers in both the House and Senate voted to support these bills throughout the process.

Finally, Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis was involved all along the way, working with school members, the Coalition Board, the Coalition’s communications team and lobbyists, and other stakeholders.

Lawmaker support for charter bills

We are grateful to the lawmakers who supported these two bills throughout the legislative process.

Both bills received bipartisan support in the House. We want to thank Rep. Cecil Brockman and Rep. Shelly Willingham, two Democrats who joined with Republicans in supporting these bills and voting to override the Governor’s vetoes. Yesterday, 74 House members voted in support of these bills, while 27 Senate members did so.

  • See how House and Senate members voted on the veto override for H.B. 219.
  • See how House and Senate members voted on the veto override for H.B. 618.

Thank you to these legislators–and to the school leaders and charter parents who contacted legislators to express their views on these bills! Thank you also to Jamila Lindsay, a parent at Lake Norman Charter, who provided the voice recording for a Coalition video promoting H.B. 219.

Coalition statement on veto overrides for charter bills

Last night, the Coalition released a statement from Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis on the veto overrides for these two bills. Find the Coalition’s press release with that statement hereABC 11’s story on the veto overrides included Lindalyn’s statement about H.B. 219, as does this Carolina Journal article.

Work yet to do

The finalized version of H.B. 219 did not include the local funding provision the Coalition drafted and sought. We will continue to push for fair funding for charter schools. Our mission is to protect and promote public charter schools–and we know this is steady, ongoing work.

Coalition responds to Governor’s veto of H.B. 219, Charter School Omnibus

By Legislation, News

The Coalition yesterday released a response to Governor Cooper’s veto of H.B. 219, Charter School Omnibus. In his veto message, the Governor included some comments that misrepresented the facts. The statements below from the Coalition address those misrepresentations.

Gov. Cooper wrote in his veto message that House Bill 219 “allows more students to attend failing charter schools…North Carolina should continue to cap the enrollment growth of low-performing charter schools until they can show that they improve student outcomes.”

It’s true that House Bill 219 removes enrollment caps for some charter schools – but it explicitly requires caps for low-performing charter schools. It doesn’t eliminate them.

Here’s the exact bill text: “Limit enrollment caps to low-performing schools.”

The bill only removes enrollment caps for public charter schools that aren’t low-performing because there were more than 77,000 student names on waitlists for North Carolina public charter schools for the 2022-23 school year.

Gov. Cooper also wrote, “Diverting local resources to build charter schools without clear authority on who owns them risks financial loss to county taxpayers.”

But current state law says that the assets, including the building, of a closed charter school go to the local school district.

Here’s the statute (G.S. 115C-218.100(b)): “Upon dissolution of a charter school, all net assets of the charter school purchased with public funds shall be deemed the property of the local school administrative unit in which the charter school is located.”

Read the full press release or this Carolina Journal article.

The Charter Movement Makes Gains in State Legislatures Nationwide

By Legislation, News

It has been a beneficial spring for the public charter school movement. That’s the key finding outlined in a new blog post from Todd Ziebarth, the senior vice president of state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. During the Spring 2023 legislative sessions, states such as Montana, Indiana, Arkansas, New York, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Florida, and West Virginia all enacted legislation favorable to charter schools.

So far, the most significant legislative advancement has been in Montana, Ziebarth writes:

Perhaps the biggest win this session comes from Big Sky Country, the great state of Montana, where it is now the 46th state with a charter school law. After a roller coaster ride of a session, the legislature passed two charter school bills, and Governor Greg Gianforte signed The Community Choice Schools Act (HB 562) into law on May 16, 2023.

We partnered with a coalition of organizations and individuals in Montana to get HB 562 passed by the legislature. This bill creates a new statewide charter school authorizing entity and provides charter schools with the flexibility to innovate while holding them accountable for results.

Lawmakers in a number of states, including North Carolina, are still considering major charter school bills. During the Spring 2023 legislative session in our state, the Coalition has been advocating intensively for charter interests, with a special focus on HB 219, Charter School Omnibus, and HB 618, Charter School Review Board. Learn more about these important bills in this Coalition blog post.

House Ed Committee Approves Bills with Charter Impacts

By Legislation, News

Earlier today the House Education – K-12 Committee approved H.B. 219, Charter School Omnibus, along with several other bills of interest to charter operators. To remain viable, these bill must pass the full House before the crossover deadline this Thursday, May 4.

H.B. 219 Summary

We are pleased that this important bill has made it out of the Education Committee. The Coalition has advocated for an aggressive legislative agenda this session, and our team has been working hard to secure passage of H.B. 219. The latest version of H.B. 219 includes a long list of high priority policy changes that will benefit public charter schools. Unfortunately, it does not include the fair funding provision we hoped for. So, in this new version of the bill, we got some—but not all—of what we wanted. That’s how politics works; negotiation is an inevitable part of getting legislation passed. Know that our work to push for fair funding and charter autonomy continues full steam ahead.

What’s in the latest version of H.B. 219? The bill:

  • Outlaws impact statements from local school districts for charter applications, renewals, amendments, or terminations
  • Specifies that a charter school’s academic performance for targeted subgroups must be judged in comparison to the academic outcomes for the same student subgroups in a district
  • Eliminates the 30% enrollment cap for schools that are not low-performing
  • Permits charter schools to admit out-of-state and foreign exchange students, and charge these students tuition
  • Allows an admission preference for military families
  • Prohibits local school districts from discriminating against charter school students in admission to any district school or special program
  • Allows county commissioners to provide capital funds to charter schools
  • Expresses the General Assembly’s intention for comparable per pupil funding: “It is the intent of the General Assembly to ensure that State and local funds for students attending charter schools shall be provided in a manner that results in per-pupil funding approximately equal to that provided for students attending other public school units.”
  • Provides for charter schools to be paid by the state based on actual enrollment, rather than being limited by the July estimate. Specifically, the bill states that charters shall be paid based on “the number of students actually enrolled in the school, up to the maximum authorized enrollment …”
  • Requires that the State Board of Education determine classifications for interscholastic athletics at public charter and nonpublic schools based on the “classification of the school or schools that the largest percentage of the student body of that school would have been assigned to attend” in the district. This is new language that was not in the initial version of H.B. 219, and the Coalition is working to have it removed.

What isn’t in this version of H.B. 219?

  • The authorization for charter schools to adopt a micro school program has been removed.
  • The updated bill also removes the explicit fair funding requirement, reflected in Section 7. (c) of Part 7 of the original bill. This provision would have required the local district to transfer to a charter school “an amount equal to the per pupil share of the local current expense fund of the local school administrative unit for the fiscal year” within 30 days of receipt. We pushed hard for this provision–and will continue our fight for fair funding in future legislative advocacy efforts.

Standardizing local payments to charter schools

Our work to secure fair funding for charter schools continues on multiple fronts. For instance, we are continuing our collaboration with leaders at the Department of Public Instruction to standardize local payments, ensuring that public schools in our state use the same process and forms. We anticipate that the new standardized system will be fully operational for the upcoming 2023-24 school year. This system will streamline the process and ensure transparency. In addition, it will also create important infrastructure for the transfer of funds as we continue our work to secure more equitable funding at the local level.

Removal of Part II in H.B. 823, Choose Your School, Choose Your Future

Today the House Education-K-12 Committee also removed Part II of H.B. 823, Choose Your School, Choose Your Future. Part II in the original version of this bill, which largely addresses the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, would have required all public school units to offer a three-year pathway to high school graduation. Charter operators had expressed a number of concerns about the impacts of this provision on their capacity to innovate at the high school level. The Coalition pushed hard for the removal of Part II from this bill, and we are pleased it was taken out of the version the committee approved.

H.B. 618, Charter School Review Board

Finally, the House Ed Committee also approved H.B. 618, Charter School Review Board–a bill the Coalition actively supports. Last week, the Coalition wrote a letter to committee members, urging approval of the bill and noting that it will help streamline and expedite the process for charter applications and renewals.

Expediting the charter application process in North Carolina

By 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.

 

 

New Video: HB 219, Charter School Omnibus

By Legislation, News

Opposition to HB 219, Charter School Omnibus, is mounting. We need all supporters to take action as we work for fair funding for public charter school students.

To that end, we have a new video about HB 219 for you to share with your friends and networks. Many thanks to Jamila Lindsay, a parent at Lake Norman Charter School, for providing the voice recording, and to Brian Jodice for putting the video together.

The video is just 42 seconds–please watch and pass it on!

Why is it so important to take action?

Groups such as the NC School Boards Association and the NC Association of School Administrators are mobilizing strong opposition to HB 219. District leaders have said this bill will cost school districts millions of dollars. See a YouTube video from Dr. Jeff James, the superintendent of Iredell Statesville Schools, in which he says HB 219 will cost his district $12 million. HB 219 could be called, “Let’s defund public education,” he says.

The Board of Education for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) has said HB 219 could cost the district over $17 million. (The school district’s 2022-23 operating budget is $1.8 billion.) Read a summary about CMS opposition in the EduGram newsletter.

The reality, however, is that HB 219 seeks to ensure public charter school students receive an equal share of the money they would receive if they attended a district school. Public charter school students in North Carolina receive 37% less local funding, on average, than public district school students. (Source: BEST NC)

What steps can you take?

Spread the word about HB 219! Share the Coalition’s video above. Reach out to your House or Senate member to share your views. Find out who represents you in the General Assembly by using this linkLawmakers are back in their Raleigh offices today, so please reach out to them this week to share your views. If you hear back from your legislators, please pass responses on to Lindalyn Kakadelis at lkakadelis@nc.chartercoalition.org.

In addition, you can share your own messages about HB 219 with stakeholders. Coalition member Juli Gardner, the director of school operations at Community School of Davidson, has created her own video explaining HB 219. Watch it here.

Resources to help with HB 219 advocacy:

 

Charter Omnibus Bill (HB 219) Action Items

By Legislation, News
We were glad to see so many charter supporters join us for Monday’s virtual meeting addressing HB 219, Charter School Omnibus. Matthew Tilley, the Coalition’s counsel, provided a clear and concise explanation about what’s at stake for charters in terms of local funding. As we mentioned during the meeting, opponents of the bill are mobilizing to contact General Assembly members. If we want to receive the funds that should follow a student to a public charter school, we must take action to support this bill. Both the NC Association for Public Charter Schools and the Coalition are encouraging all charter stakeholders to get involved! Please put advocacy for HB 219 at the top of your list. We need all hands on deck to make fair funding a reality for charter schools and students!

New resources to help with advocacy:

Find out who represents you in the General Assembly by using this link. You can email, call, or write to your House or Senate member. Please feel free to personalize your correspondence with your legislators, as this is most compelling.
HB 219 infographic – Stakeholders

 

Funding equity comes to Missouri charter schools

By Legislation, News

Funding equity is coming to Missouri charter schools. Currently, the state still has quite a small charter movement–just 26,000 students. Charter schools operate just in St. Louis and Kansas City. Yet, the state’s charter movement has faced funding challenges similar to other states. That is beginning to change: At the end of June, Governor Mike Parsons signed HB 1552, introducing funding equity for Missouri charter schools.

Fixing disparities in local funding for charter schools

Dean Johnson, the president of the Quality Schools Coalition, writes about the path to victory in today’s issue of the Charter Folk newsletter. Before the law, charter students’ funding lagged district students’ funding by 20-30%, Johnson writes. Inequities arose from local funding disparities; the law fixes that “glitch” in the funding formula. Now, HB 1552 will increase charter funding by $62 million a year. The law takes effect this school year, on August 28.

 

Missouri Governor Mike Parsons signs HB 1552. Photo credit: Charter Folk newsletter, July 21, 2022.

In Missouri, the path to victory was populated with parents

Johnson attributes the victory to several factors, including groups coalescing around one “consensus priority,” engaging with others across the aisle, and investing for the duration. (The law’s passage took three years to accomplish.) He also credits the power of parent advocacy. Here’s what he writes about that:

In 2019 parents were advocating, but the overall effort was nascent. Legislators would tell us, “I just don’t hear from charter school parents. But I sure hear from charter opponents.” But on the last day of the 2022 legislative session, after funding equity was headed to the governor’s desk, a legislator said to me as we passed in the hall, “Can you please have the charter school parents stop calling me now?”

See Johnson’s full column on Charter Folk’s site.

Read more about HB 1552 in the Missouri Independent.

View the statement from the Missouri Charter Public Schools Association.

The Coalition, working to achieve funding equity for N.C. charter schools

A key objective for the Coalition is achieving funding equity for North Carolina charter schools. How do we do that? We work to remedy existing inequities within per pupil local funding as well as state-level grants that have omitted access for charter schools. Learn more about our legislative goals here.