H.B. 618 Archives - North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools

Q&A with Charter Review Board Member Hilda Parlér

By News

What’s next for charter schools in North Carolina? What impact will a new law converting the Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB) into a Charter Schools Review Board (CSRB)—with the authority to approve and renew charter schools—have on the broader charter movement? To answer these and other questions, the Coalition’s communications director, Kristen Blair, spoke with Hilda Parlér, a longtime educator and charter leader. Hilda is serving her third appointed term as a member of CSAB, now the Charter Schools Review Board.  

 A middle school math teacher for nearly three decades, Hilda is also the founder of two public charter schools: Wake Forest Charter Academy and Wake Preparatory Academy.  She serves as the current board president for Wake Forest Charter Academy, which was named one of Raleigh’s best charter schools by the News & Observer in 2022. She is also the former board president of Wake Preparatory Academy. In addition, Hilda has served as a member of the NC ACCESS Equity Working Group. Created in 2018, the five-year NC ACCESS Program has distributed over $36 million in federal grants to charter schools, to remove enrollment barriers for educationally disadvantaged students.

 We include the full Q&A below.

You began your career in education as a middle school math teacher in both public and private schools. What led you to the charter movement? 

Hilda Parlér: It goes back 70 years to when I was a young girl, seven years old. I always wanted to start my own school because I loved numbers, loved my teachers, and loved going to school. I also used to teach my brothers and sisters when school was out. So, I practiced teaching quite a bit as a young girl!

When I retired on paper in 2013, after really seeing that many students were not getting a quality education and were falling through the cracks to no fault of their own, I researched and researched the possibility of opening a private or charter school. I decided to open a charter school because it would be tuition-free and still a public school, but non-traditional.

I started Wake Forest Charter Academy in 2014; it’s a K-8 school. The second one, Wake Preparatory Academy, a K-12 charter school, opened in 2022. They were my lifelong dream, realized with the help of many.

Hilda Parlér is a member of the Charter Schools Review Board and the founder of two public charter schools. Photo credit: Hilda Parlér.

Given your experience as a charter school founder, how would you characterize the most essential components of a new charter school?

Hilda: Oh, I have such a long list! It ties in with the board, too, as well as the school itself. The founding board members must have a clear vision and mission and be committed to follow through, so that when the school opens successfully the mission aligns with what the school is promising to provide the families and students.

Schools, especially the administrators and the board, should have a working knowledge of charter school finance, accountability, federal programs, legislative updates, local and state [policies]—all of those areas that affect the school. Teacher retention is very important. Schools must make sure that they hire quality leaders and teachers, and ensure they have consistent teacher professional development opportunities so that they can grow, and bottom line, that their students will grow academically and socially. Involve parents where appropriate.

Leveraging your charter oversight and governance background, what would you share with charter superintendents and operators about optimizing their school’s operational and academic success?  

Hilda: They must be very knowledgeable about charter school laws as well as federal, state, and local laws. They should be knowledgeable about the roles and responsibilities of the board and what they are held accountable for. The board holds the charter, and the buck stops with the board. So many times, I’ve heard some school administrators and operators say, “Our charter.” No, they have to know that the board holds the charter because the board applied for the charter. And superintendents or heads of schools must attend board meetings. Reports should be presented at the board meetings which include updates of their ADM [Average Daily Membership] by grade, the waitlist, updates on academics, special programs, teacher professional development sessions, teacher retention, student discipline cases, and any expulsions—all things about the school. And then of course, activities, assemblies, athletics, fine arts, and parent involvement.

In your view, how has the charter movement advanced educational opportunities for students, and what work still needs to be done to remove barriers for educationally disadvantaged students? 

Hilda: I think it has advanced significantly overall. Most people think charter schools are not public schools. But the state report cards and other data prove that many of the charter school students have outperformed the students in the traditional public schools. Charter schools have been able to be innovative with instruction. That has made a marked difference in student proficiency and growth, too.

More of the charter schools are beginning to implement equity plans so that they will help students who are educationally disadvantaged to be successful. Schools are beginning to see the difference between equity and equality—and that using equity plans will enhance learning for all students. If we implement equity plans, it will reduce challenges for the education of educationally disadvantaged students, and ultimately, all students.

 What are the opportunities ahead for North Carolina’s charter schools?

Hilda: Now that we have a Charter Schools Review Board, on which I sit, that can improve the process of boards to apply for charter schools. The CSRB will have the opportunity to approve—or not, of course—boards that have applied for charters. That will reduce the time that it takes for charter schools to open because there won’t be another level of approval. It will speed up the process greatly.

The Charter Schools Review Board members are affiliated with charter schools. There are founders on the board, board of directors [members], heads of schools or superintendents; some have children and grandchildren enrolled in charter schools. I think it will encourage more boards to apply for charter schools, thereby increasing the number of charter schools.

There has been a leveling off of applicants. I remember when the board applied in 2013, for Wake Forest Charter Academy, there were 79 applicants. Now, for [its upcoming meetings on] September 11-12, the state Charter Schools Review Board received 15 applications. So, that’s a huge drop. But I do believe, because we now have the Charter Schools Review Board, more boards will apply.

What are some key or ongoing challenges for the charter movement? You mentioned earlier that many people believe charter schools are not public schools. Is messaging one of the challenges?

Hilda: Well, that, number one, is on my list! There will always be people who do not know the difference, or they choose not to express the difference [between public charter schools and traditional public schools]. So, we have to find ways so that they are not misinformed. Sometimes the media can throw a monkey wrench into the situation. [It would be good] if we could ever get to that point where people realize a fact is a fact—that charter schools are public schools, but non-traditional. A lot of people think we are private, because of uniforms to an extent. No. They say we’re taking money away from the public schools. Number one: We are public. Number two: We get 37 percent less for each kid to operate. Charter schools operate with less and get more positive results.

A lot of people don’t think charter schools are held accountable. In essence, we’re held more accountable because our schools can be closed if they are low performing for a certain length of time. That does not happen in the traditional public school sector.

As you know, House Bill 618, Charter Schools Review Board, is now law. This new law converts the Charter Schools Advisory Board into the Charter Schools Review Board, with authority to grant charter approvals and renewals. Could you share your perspective on how this shift could impact the charter approval process in our state as well as the broader charter movement?

Hilda: I strongly believe it will cause more boards to apply for charters, the charter movement will stay alive, and we will have far more applications resulting in an increase of charter schools. It will speed up the process. And it takes the politics out of the process, being that the CSRB [members] are pro-charter schools, while keeping the bottom line in mind always that schools are for children.

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to share? 

Hilda: I will always do what I can to give our children the quality education they need and deserve, with equity. I remain the Voice4schoolchoice!

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.

Response to Governor’s veto of H.B. 618, Charter Schools Review Board

By News

The Coalition on Monday released a response to Governor Cooper’s veto of H.B. 618, Charter School Review Board. We are sharing our response in full below. Access a pdf version of the press release here.

Gov. Cooper Wrong to Denounce Charter School Supervisors

Raleigh, NC – On Friday afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill to streamline the approval process for public charter schools by creating a new Charter Schools Review Board.

In his veto message, Gov. Cooper used unnecessarily charged language to attack public charter school supervisors, calling the new board a “commission of political friends and extremists.”

We’re a bipartisan organization that has praised, endorsed, and otherwise supported both Democrats and Republicans. But when a policymaker, even the Governor, makes such a wrongheaded public statement, we feel compelled to respond.

The new board created by House Bill 618 would be appointed in the same exact manner as the body it partly replaces, the Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB).

CSAB is not comprised of hacks and “extremists,” as Gov. Cooper would have people believe. Taken together, CSAB’s eleven members have 295 years of combined education experience, including in managing and overseeing public charter schools.

CSAB’s chair, Bruce Friend, has been an education professional for 30 years. One member is a professor at N.C. State University with a doctorate in financial economics. Another operates one of the longest-serving charter schools in the state and has a doctorate in education. The list goes on.

It appears that Gov. Cooper’s basis for attacking the new Charter Schools Review Board is the fact that the legislature would appoint a majority of its members.

Even though Gov. Cooper appoints a majority to the State Board of Education, we have not, nor would we ever, call that body a “commission of political friends and extremists.”

The Board of Education’s chair is an engineer by training. Its vice chair is a partner at a law firm. Despite those backgrounds, we consider both to be qualified and capable members, not mere “political friends” to the Governor.

And despite past controversies involving the State Board of Education, we do not consider its members to be “extremists.”

Gov. Cooper’s statement about public charter school supervisors was off the mark. Public charter schools offer North Carolina children innovative curricula. They complement, rather than compete with, district schools.

Those who oversee public charter schools approach their work with rigor and good faith. They deserve to be treated as the professionals they are.

Contact: pat@ryanpublicrelations.com

Lawmakers Pass Bill Streamlining Charter Application Process

By News

We have good news to report on H.B. 618, Charter School Review Board! Lawmakers in the House voted Tuesday to concur with the version of the bill the Senate passed last week. H.B. 618 was ratified yesterday and presented to Governor Cooper. He has 10 days to sign or veto the bill–or allow it to become law without his signature.

The Coalition worked hard to secure passage of H.B. 618, and we are grateful to all of the bill’s sponsors and supporters–and its bipartisan support in the House. The bill’s primary sponsors include Rep. Tricia Cotham, Speaker Tim Moore, Rep. Destin Hall, and Rep. David Willis.

Streamlining an inefficient process

H.B. 618 creates a remedy for an inefficient process. It converts the current Charter Schools Advisory Board into a Charter School Review Board, with sole authority to approve charter applications and renewals. Currently, CSAB reviews charter school applications and makes recommendations to the State Board of Education; the State Board then approves or denies these applications. As Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis pointed out in a recent WCNC article, this process is duplicative and inefficient.

Under H.B. 618, the State Board of Education would continue to oversee charter school accountability, rule-making, and funding. In addition, the State Board would hear appeals related to Review Board denials. The bill stipulates that applicants, charter schools, and the State Superintendent may appeal Review Board decisions.

Read more from the News & Observer, NC Newsline, or an earlier Coalition blog post.