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Lindalyn Kakadelis Archives - North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools

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.

 

TMSA Students Recognized at NC General Assembly

By News

As part of National Charter Schools Week, House Speaker Tim Moore on Wednesday recognized students from TMSA Triangle Math and Science Academy and The Math & Science Academy of Apex. These students, who gathered in the House Gallery with parents and school leaders, represent charter school excellence in multiple areas, and at various ages.

Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis and Coalition lobbyist Lee Teague organized the event with TMSA students and lawmakers. Rep. Erin Paré, District 37 (Wake), sponsored their visit.

Below, we include the write-up of the visit from TMSA leaders:

It is with great pride and excitement that we extend the highest honors to six of our outstanding students from TMSA Triangle Math and Science Academy and The Math and Science Academy of Apex. Led by the NC Coalition for Charter Schools and sponsored by Rep. Erin Paré, the visit honoring these remarkable students provided them with recognition in the House Chamber of the NC General Assembly. House Speaker Tim Moore called out their names and read their achievements. They then received a standing ovation from all of the representatives in the House Gallery. Students’ parents also joined the event and met Rep. Erin Paré.
These students have demonstrated exceptional talent, dedication, and achievement in various fields. We acknowledge their remarkable accomplishments and invite you to join us in congratulating them! The students are:
  • Aashritha Karthik Kamu (Grade 5, TMSA Triangle)
  • Abeeha Yasheen (Grade 7, TMSA Triangle)
  • Vatsalya Vishnoi (Grade 6, TMSA Apex)
  • Daniel Loeffler (Grade 6, TMSA Apex)
  • Sina Dehghani (Grade 11, TMSA Triangle)
  • Alekhya Kotha (Grade 11, TMSA Triangle)

Here are some specifics about these students’ achievements:

Aashritha Karthik Kamu won 1st prize across all five categories in the Elementary division for a special award by NC One Water in the NC Science and Engineering Fair.

TMSA Triangle FLL team, the Cyber Tigers, achieved a remarkable feat at the North Carolina FLL Semifinals. With their incredible project, “The Arithmacade,” they not only captured the imagination of all but also earned the prestigious First Place Innovation Project Award and advanced to the NC State Championship. Abeeha Yasheen is recognized on behalf of her team.

Sixth graders Vatsalya Vishnoi and Daniel Loeffler were ranked top at the NC State Science Olympiad State Tournament. Vatsalya and Daniel competed with 40 teams consisting of 7th and 8th graders and came in first in the Air Trajectory category.

Sina Dehghani received 2nd Place in Travel and Tourism in the 2024 DECA State and 2024 DECA Internationals. Additionally, Sina achieved 2nd Place in the College Physics and Community Awareness Project in 2024 HOSA States.
Alekhya Kotha distinguished herself as a USA Biology Olympiad Semi-Finalist, ranking in the top 500 out of 10,000 participants from 44 states.

Congratulations to these exemplary students! We share photos from Wednesday’s visit:

Six students from TMSA visit the General Assembly on Wednesday and meet with Rep. Erin Paré.

Students and leaders from TMSA stand outside the House Gallery at the General Assembly.

Left to right: Coalition lobbyist Lee Teague, Rep. Erin Paré, TMSA leader Fatih Sahin, and Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis at the General Assembly. Photo credits: TMSA.

Charter Schools Week Op-Ed from Lindalyn

By News

Lindalyn Kakadelis, the executive director of the Coalition, has a new op-ed out to mark National Charter Schools Week. The op-ed, published yesterday in Carolina Journal, highlights the growth and popularity of North Carolina’s public charter school movement–even as the political divide on charter schools grows.

Here’s an excerpt from the op-ed:

It’s National Charter Schools Week, and there is much to celebrate about North Carolina’s charter school movement. Public charter schools in our state now educate 145,000 students in 63 counties, and charter popularity continues to grow with families. In fact, the state’s charter school waitlist now features over 85,000 student names. Despite widespread popularity, however, charter schools face mounting political challenges.

First, some facts: Charter schools are free, public, and open to all. Yet, as more parents turn to them for their children’s education, there remains a threat that these public schools of choice will face new regulatory obstacles or even a cap prohibiting new charter schools from opening. The reason baffles me, but some corners view public charter schools as a threat to be tamed, rather than a dynamic educational environment that provides the best choice for some children.

A broad bipartisan coalition birthed public charter schools decades ago, and has supported the movement for many years. It has long been my dream for the politics surrounding the issue to return to that.

Read the full CJ perspective here.

Vote for pro-charter candidates in the primary election!

By Election 2024
Early voting for the upcoming primary election ends at 3 p.m. this Saturday, March 2. Please vote for a pro-charter candidate–whether you vote early or on Election Day, March 5!  To educate voters about how the primary candidates stack up on support for public charter schools, the Coalition Board of Directors has endorsed a slate of pro-charter candidates.

Candidates endorsed by the Coalition

North Carolina House of Representatives
North Carolina Senate
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
*Candidates with an asterisk are not incumbents.

In a press release announcing the candidate endorsements, Lindalyn Kakadelis, executive director of the Coalition, said:

Our organization endorses candidates exclusively on the basis of their support for public charter schools. Parents deserve a choice in their public schooling, and we use what resources we have to see to it that parents know who supports their choice and who doesn’t. These candidates have a track record of supporting public charter schools. They embrace the idea that parents deserve options in deciding which public school environment will best help their children achieve their full potential.

More information about voting in the primary election

Election Day voting on Tuesday, March 5, runs from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Access more information about your in-person voting place on Election Day. When you vote, remember to bring your photo I.D.
Elections have consequences. The success of North Carolina’s charter movement pivots around the outcome of elections. Working to elect pro-charter candidates means the Coalition is able to advance our legislative goals at the General Assembly of protecting charter autonomy and pushing for fair funding. Please vote!
Coalition endorsements are non-partisan and issue-driven. View our Guidelines for Candidate Endorsement.

Lindalyn Kakadelis Weighs in on Parent Choice in Education

By News

Photo credit: National School Choice Awareness Foundation.

Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis has a new op-ed out today in Carolina Journal. The editorial, which highlights the fundamental importance of parent choice in education, coincides with celebrations across the nation this week for National School Choice Week (NSCW).

Here’s an excerpt from Lindalyn’s new commentary:

I have a feeling most people involved in education policy intuitively accept the conclusion that parents should be the final word on what’s best for their child. But I also believe some don’t really understand its implications. You see, if we accept as our guiding principle that final authority rests with parents, then the answer to many of the debates roiling education policy becomes patently obvious.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the debate over school choice. Should all children have one schooling option, determined by a family’s address? Or should children have multiple schooling options, determined by parents and based on what they think is best?

If our guiding principle is that final word rests with parents, then it stands to reason parents should have options for where to send their children to school — and the more options the better. In this way, the public school system supports, rather than supplants, a parent’s decision-making by offering an array of options for parents to choose from.

That’s what public charter schools offer: another option, often with a curricular concentration, such as STEM or the arts or even a classical focus.

Read the rest of Lindalyn’s editorial here. In addition, if you missed it, you can view the winning video from the Coalition’s dance video contest for NSCW here. It showcases the dance moves of students and faculty from Community Public Charter School. Read more about the winning video in this Coalition blog post.

2024 Political Forecast for Charter Schools: Q&A with Lindalyn Kakadelis

By News

As another year launches, the Coalition is intent on framing the issues—both good and bad—facing our state’s public charter schools. Who better to do that than the Coalition’s own executive director, Lindalyn Kakadelis? A former teacher and member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board as well as the state’s Charter Schools Advisory Board, Lindalyn has a long history as an educator and advocate. In 2018, she helped found the Coalition with other charter school leaders, seeking to establish a strong, statewide voice to protect and promote public charter schools.

The Coalition’s communications director, Kristen Blair, spoke with Lindalyn about what to expect in the year ahead. We share the full Q&A below.

Lindalyn Kakadelis speaks at an event hosted by the Coalition.

We’re at the beginning of a new calendar year, with primaries and a general election on the horizon for 2024. What’s the forecast for charter schools?

Lindalyn Kakadelis: The 2023 General Assembly was extremely favorable to charter schools. But what happens in the future depends heavily on the results of the election primary in March, and then of course the general election in November. The bottom line is that we need to elect General Assembly members who see the value of public charter schools. In addition, we want to make sure that each public school student in North Carolina receives the same amount of money, whether that child attends a district school or a public charter school.

The 2024 legislative session will be brief, so we don’t expect as much to be accomplished, simply because it’s the short session. But we’re getting ready for 2025, and that’s going to be very important. The elections—both the primary and general elections—will directly affect the 2025 session, not the 2024 session.

You’ve said before that charter schools are “politically fragile.” What does that mean in practical terms for schools?

Lindalyn: The General Assembly established charter schools in 1996 through legislation. So, the legislature is the body that has control over charter schools, along with the State Board of Education. If North Carolinians don’t elect a majority of pro-charter General Assembly members—Democrat or Republican—then we can’t get our bills passed. If that happens, we will not be able to keep the autonomy that is necessary to fulfill charter schools’ purpose. Unfortunately, we have seen more and more regulatory creep over the years, both at the statutory and regulatory levels. We need a State Board of Education that will work with us, but that is totally dependent on the governor. The governor appoints the State Board of Education members to eight-year terms.

Right now, some members of the State Board of Education have not been confirmed. So, the day a new governor takes the oath of office, he can appoint several new State Board members who are favorable—or unfavorable—to charter schools.

The General Assembly takes care of charter funding issues and policies that have a far-reaching effect on charter schools. Then, the State Board implements that legislation, but if we don’t have a favorable State Board, we risk the Board implementing legislation in the worst possible way. So, really, it’s a domino effect—and it all hinges on elections. Elections really do matter.

Many people do not want to enter the political fray, and I totally understand that. But here’s reality: If you are in a charter school, you are political. We’ve always stated that it’s better to be at the table than on the table.

Why is it so important to elect lawmakers who support charter schools? How can elections impact charter school capacity to grow and operate?

Lindalyn: In the General Assembly last year we were able to end the enrollment cap for any charter school that is not low performing. Now, because of that legislation, charter schools can grow to capacity without having an enrollment cap. That’s so important for our state’s families, as charter schools reported over 77,000 students on their waitlists last year. But if we make the application process so stringent and bureaucratic, it becomes too hard for people to start new charter schools. So, we want to work with the General Assembly to potentially provide facility funding, startup funding—none of that is available right now. That’s what we need to do to make it easier to start charter schools.

Last year, we also successfully pushed for a new law that allows county commissioners to provide facility funding for charter schools. Previously, this was not an option. We’ve already had charter schools take advantage of that. People may not know that up until that legislation, charter schools received no funding for facilities from counties or from the state, and they had to pay for all of their facilities out of their operating funds. That could be as much as 10-15% of the money they receive from the state.

District schools, on the other hand, have bond packages that pay for their facilities. They never have a facility cost that comes out of their operating fund. When I was on the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board, we had our budget, and then we would request bond funding. It’s two totally separate funding streams. But charter schools receive no funds from bonds. People don’t understand that.

What do parents need to know about charter schools and the broader political context? What can they do to support the charter school movement?

Lindalyn: Parents need to realize that charter schools have only been around since 1996, and they can be closed down. If charter schools don’t perform, the state shuts them down, and that is as it should be. But there’s another threat to charter schools, which is regulatory reform. That can absolutely stifle charter schools. The Coalition tries to stop regulatory creep, so that charter schools can flourish with the flexibility and innovation they were intended to have.

In addition, parents and charter stakeholders need to know accurate information about charter schools and understand when charter school myths are being pushed by anti-charter special interest groups. One common myth is that charter schools drain money from district schools. This is simply untrue. When a family decides to send their child to a charter school, the charter school takes the student and the money to educate that student. But that charter school isn’t “draining” money—the money should belong to the student, not the system. And the district is no longer educating that student or bearing costs associated with that child’s education!

So, in grocery stores and places of worship, parents need to be able to share accurate facts about charter schools. Parents should also share on social media about their experience at their charter school—why they are happy with it, and that they want it to continue.

Finally, in some of our charter schools, parents don’t realize how political charter schools are. They see them as similar to a district school that will never close. But that is just not the case. Charter schools can be closed, and they must also apply for renewal at set intervals established by the state. It’s important for parents to know that there are people who do not want school choice to exist. They believe the system is more important than the child, and they don’t recognize that one size does not fit all. But we must have educational options for families outside of their zip code.

How are politics in North Carolina right now impacting charter schools—and what is at stake?

Lindalyn: When a charter school has a bad actor or doesn’t perform, the anti-charter special interest groups do their best to make it look like all charter schools are like that. But that isn’t the case. Unfortunately, there are bad actors in every type of school—private, public, religious, independent—but we should not try to sink an entire schooling movement because of one bad actor. But that’s what we’re seeing: Anti-charter groups leverage one bad situation as the reason to call for more stringent charter regulations across the board.

What’s at stake? Stifling all the innovation at a charter school. Innovation is what parents really like about charter schools. But if regulatory creep continues, charter schools will have their hands tied behind their backs and will not be able to do what the parents want.

That’s why it’s important for people to read the Coalition’s blog and communications pieces, because we consistently advocate for flexibility and innovation. The Coalition is constantly fighting to stop regulatory creep and protect autonomy. But we are seeing more regulatory creep now than ever.

The Coalition is holding its second annual Charter Advocacy Summit in March. Why should school leaders attend, and what can they expect to learn?

Lindalyn: Our first Summit was such a success. We know everyone is so busy, and so we plan intentionally to fit everything into a one-day format. We let our charter leaders know what is happening in Raleigh, how to advocate for charter needs, and how to build relationships with General Assembly members. We do that important relationship-building with lawmakers through a reception the night before.

School leaders, we try to get as many representatives as possible there to meet you. We’ll also share what you can expect from the new Charter Schools Review Board, along with recent policy changes that impact your funding and school construction. And our Government Relations Team will provide a legislative outlook, analyze new election primary results, and share an overview with you of the legal landscape.

We’re doing all of this to help not just the charter school movement but to help your school, too! If you aren’t aware of the new charter school renewal policy that the State Board of Education just introduced, for example, then how can you advocate for change? Before the Coalition, charter school leaders often found out about things after the fact, without having the chance to be proactive. They had to throw their hands up and say, “That’s just the way things have to be.”

Now, the Coalition is here, saying, “Things don’t have to be that way.” We look at the legal way to protect your charter autonomy and flexibility, and we work strategically and effectively with the General Assembly to ensure that happens.

WUNC Reports on Declining District Market Share, Charter Growth

By News

A new article from WUNC examines shifting enrollment trends in North Carolina. The article, “Where do NC students go to school? Trends show decline at traditional public schools,” provides some excellent charts that illustrate substantial K-12 enrollment change over the past decade.

As the article reports, non-district school models (including public charters) continue to increase their share of the K-12 market. (Read more about charters’ growing market share here, here, and here.)  Meanwhile, the percentage of students enrolled in district public schools has fallen from 85.1% in Fall 2013 to 76.6% in Fall 2022. WUNC captures in the charts below what such trends have looked like over time in NC:

Source: WUNC, “Where do NC students go to school? Trends show decline at traditional public schools,” December 28, 2023.

Source: WUNC.

Reasons for change

Why are more families choosing non-district options? The WUNC article quotes Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis, who said, “Sometimes a child’s district school is perfect for them, but sometimes it just isn’t a great fit, and that can be for a lot of reasons.” About charter schools and district schools, she noted, “They’re all public schools and I see them as complementing, not competing, with one another.”

Read the full WUNC article.

 

Coalition responds to State Board of Ed. policy threatening charter funding

By News

Last Thursday, the State Board of Education voted 8-3 to approve a new policy that threatens funding for new  charter schools. This policy, CHTR-022, requires the Charter Schools Review Board to present all approved applications, renewals, and material revisions to the State Board for funding allocation before any state or federal funds can be disbursed, to ensure schools are in compliance. It comes in response to Session Law 2023-110 converting the Charter Schools Advisory Board into the Charter Schools Review Board, with authority to approve and renew charters.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell, Dr. Olivia Oxendine, and Lt. Governor Mark Robinson voted against the policy. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, a non-voting member of SBE, also voiced concerns.

Coalition response to the State Board’s policy

The Coalition issued a press release and statement in response to the State Board’s policy, noting that it violates state law and threatens to withhold funds from new public charter schools. In the release, Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis said:

North Carolina charter schools are enormously popular with families, as evidenced by the 77,000 names on charter school waitlists. The legislature streamlined the approval process for new public charter schools to meet this demand. The State Board of Education is wrong to play these bureaucratic power games when parents just want options in their public schooling.

The Coalition also sent a letter to SBE members outlining concerns about the policy.

Read more

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.