TO ELIMINATE THE CAP ON CHARTER SCHOOLS, TO ESTABLISH THE NORTH CAROLINA CHARTER SCHOOL COMMISSION, TO PROVIDE FOR ENHANCED ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CHARTER SCHOOL ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE, AND TO MAKE OTHER CHANGES TO THE CHARTER SCHOOL STATUTES.
Makes the following changes to Part 6A (Charter Schools) of GS Chapter 115C, Article 16.
Purpose. Amends GS 115C-238.29A to provide that the purpose of Part 6A of GS Chapter 115C is to establish a North Carolina Charter School Commission that will oversee and make recommendations to the State Board of Education (SBE) regarding a system of charter schools (was, stated the purpose as authorizing a system of charter schools). Reorganizes the list of purposes for the system of charter schools to provide that the purpose is to accomplish the following (was, accomplish all of the following): (1) improve student learning; (2) increase learning opportunities for all students, with a special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students identified as at risk of academic failure or academically gifted; and adds as a new purpose, (3) prepare students for career or college. Declares that it is the intent of the General Assembly that in carrying out the stated purposes, charter schools may accomplish all of the following (previously included in the list of purposes) through their creation and operation: (1) encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods; (2) create new professional opportunities for teachers and administrators (was, teachers); and (3) provide expanded choices in educational opportunities to parents and students. Requires that all schools established under Part 6A of GS Chapter 115C be held accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results. Deletes requirement to provide schools established under Part 6A with a method to change from rule based to performance based accountability systems.
Charter School Commission. Establishes the North Carolina Public Charter School Commission (Commission). Provides that the Commission is to exercise its powers and functions independently of the SBE and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) except as otherwise provided. The duties and powers of the Commission include: (1) providing technical assistance through the Office of Charter Schools and DPI to charter school applicants and to approved charter schools under Part 6A; (2) recommending policies for adoption by the SBE regarding all aspects of charter school operation including criteria for approval of charter applications, monitoring of charter schools, and revocation of charters; (3) overseeing the process for accepting and approving applications for charters and making recommendations to the SBE for final approval of charter applications; (4) monitoring the operation of charter schools with the assistance and counsel of DPI staff; (5) recommending any actions regarding a charter school including renewals, nonrenewals, and revocation of charters to the SBE; and (6) undertaking any duties and responsibilities consistent with the specified powers and duties of the Commission or as directed by the SBE.
Requires that the Commission submit its recommendations to the SBE. Permits the SBE to accept or reject the recommendations. States that the SBE is not to make any substantive changes to initial recommendations from the Commission that the SBE adopts. Requires the SBE to state with specificity its reasons for rejecting a recommendation from the Commission. Allows the Commission to amend the rejected recommendation and resubmit it. Provides the SBE with final authority to adopt, amend, or reject recommendations from the Commission.
Makes the Commission subject to the provisions of GS Chapter 132 (Public records) and Article 33C of GS Chapter 143 (Meetings of Public Bodies).
Commission membership. Provides that the Commission is to have 13 members: four members appointed by the Governor, eight members appointed by the General Assembly, and one member appointed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction (Superintendent). Provides additional guidelines as to the representational criteria for the appointed members. Also includes prerequisites regarding qualifications of members. Sets terms of office for appointed members and the process for filling vacancies. Provides that each of the entities making appointments to the Commission is to have a goal of achieving a balanced membership reflecting the diversity of the state as a whole, geographically as well as educationally, to the maximum extent possible. Provides that the Superintendent is to designate a chairperson from the Commission membership and the designation is to be approved by a majority of the Commission members.
Requires that appointments be made by October 1, 2011. Amends GS 120-123 to prohibit a member of the General Assembly from serving on the Commission.
Eligibility and applications. Amends GS 115C-238.29B to modify the content of the charter application to require that it include a proposed budget for, at minimum, five years of operation, information as to targeted populations and community, instructional design of the proposed charter school, plans for identifying and successfully serving the needs of a diverse student population, and evidence of community support for the charter. Requires that information on the governance structure of the school include proposed governing bylaws and biographical information on the proposed members of the board of directors that establishes their qualifications for board membership. Additionally requires that the application include a chart that clearly presents the school’s organizational structure, any plans the school may have for removing the need for transportation or food services as a barrier for attending the charter school, explanations of partnerships or contractual relationships central to the school’s operation or mission, and a detailed school start-up plan.
Provides that a local board of education wishing to convert a public school to a charter school is not required to form a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation in order to do so if the local board of education serves as the board of directors at the proposed charter school.
Directs the applicant to submit the application to the Commission (current law requires submitting applications to a chartering entity). Directs the Commission to review and evaluate the application and decide whether to give the application preliminary approval. Specifies that the SBE is to have final approval of the charter school application. Additionally requires the applicant to submit a copy of the application to the local board of education of the school system where the charter school will be located within seven days of submission of the application to the Commission. Allows the local board of education to submit any information or comment on the application to the Commission within 90 days of receiving the copy of the application.
Authorizes the Commission to determine the schedule, deadlines for submitting charter school applications, and the completeness of an application. Provides that an entity whose application is disapproved by the commission may appeal the decision to the SBE. Provides standards to be used by the SBE in in reviewing the appeal.
Amends GS 115C-238.29D to place final approval of a charter application within the authority of the SBE. Provides that the SBE may (was, shall) grant final approval of a charter application if the SBE determines (was finds) that the application meets the requirements set out in Part 6A or adopted by the SBE and that granting the application would accomplish one or more of the purposes set out in GS 115C-238.29A as amended by this act. Directs the SBE to establish a timeline to take final action on applications declared complete under GS 115C-238.29C, (as amended by this act), and to make the timeline information available to all applicants (was, SBE had to act by March 15 of a calendar year on all applications and appeals received prior to February 15 of that calendar year).
Prohibits the SBE from approving an application for a virtual charter school. Defines a virtual charter school as a school with no physical facilities in this state that provides instruction to students via the Internet or other electronic means.
Requires the SBE to provide an applicant with the opportunity to request reconsideration of the SBE’s decision disapproving an application. However, provides that the SBE is not required to reconsider an application that does not include any additional information that was not previously presented by the applicant to the SBE. Exempts a decision by the SBE disapproving an application from review under GS Chapter 150B.
Permits the SBE to include in the charter any standards or requirement it deems necessary to fulfill the purposes of Part 6A of GS 115C as well as other objectives set forth by the charter applicant.
Deletes current provisions regarding enrollment and growth and instead provides that projected charter school enrollment is to be annually determined as a part of the development of the Continuation Budget process. Provides that a charter school be allowed to increase enrollment and grades as requested unless the Commission, subject to approval by the SBE, finds that the any of the following is true, the charter school (1) is not meeting academic standards, (2) has not met established fiscal management standards, (3) lacks the capacity or capability to manage the growth, or (4) has not met other standards established and publicized by the Commission and the SBE.
Amends GS 115C-238.29E to make all charter schools approved by the State accountable to the SBE (was, charters receiving preliminary approval from a local board was accountable to local board and charter schools could choose to be accountable to local board where they were located rather than the state).
General Requirements. Amends GS 115C-238.29F to permit the Commission, subject to the SBE, to impose more stringent teacher certification requirements for a charter school that is low-performing under criteria developed by the SBE under GS Chapter 115C. Prohibits charter schools from employing as a teacher anyone whose certification has been revoked by the SBE. Requires the Charter school’s board of directors to employ at least one person whose major function includes the direct or indirect supervision of teaching or any other part of the school’s instructional program. Requires that the person hold or be qualified to hold a certificate in compliance with GS 115C-284 and the regulations of the SBE.
Provides criteria to clarify the status of employees of charter schools for purposes of the salary schedule, longevity pay, and rate of earned leave. Also addresses the status of employees who leave employment at a charter school to return to a local school administrative unit. Provides that employees of a charter school are teachers for the purposes of membership in the North Carolina Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement system.
Permits a charter school that cannot enroll sufficient students who live in North Carolina to enroll students who are not domiciled in this state and charge those students tuition equal to the amount of the per pupil allocation of the county where the charter school is located and the amount of the state per pupil appropriation for that school year. Limits the number of students who are not domiciled in the state to no more than 10% of the total number of students enrolled in the charter school.
Provides that except as set out in the mission statement as included in the school charter that a charter school may not limit admission to students based on intellectual ability or measures of aptitude or achievement.
Deletes provision that allowed diversity requirements to be satisfied by the charter school having a population within one year after beginning operation that reflected the racial and ethnic composition of the special population that the school seeks to serve within the local school administrative unit (LEA) in which the school is located.
Transportation and Nutrition. Directs the SBE to withhold from the funds provided to charter schools under GS 115C-29H (state and local funds for a charter school) any categorical allotment for transportation unless the charter school provides transportation for its enrolled students who have a family income below 185% of the federal poverty level. Directs the charter school to develop a transportation plan to prohibit lack of transportation from being a barrier to attendance for students with family income below 185% of the federal poverty level. Deletes provision stating that a charter school is not required to provide transportation to any student who lives within one and one-half miles of the school.
Requires a charter school to provide free and reduced priced meals to students with family income below 185% of the federal poverty level unless waived by the SBE upon a showing of extraordinary financial hardship by the charter school.
Causes for nonrenewal or termination; disputes. Amends GS 115C-238.29G to provide additional grounds for termination or nonrenewal of a charter by the SBE, or a chartering entity subject to the approval of the SBE. Adds as a basis for nonrenewal or termination of a charter, failure to make a good faith effort to achieve academic diversity, geographic distribution, or community needs or to remove economic barriers to attending the charter school. Requires that the SBE terminate or not renew the charter for a school that (1) fails to meet or exceed expected growth, as defined by the SBE under Article 8B of GS Chapter 115C, and (2) has a performance composite below 60% for two years in any three-year period. Provides that the SBE may terminate or not renew a charter if the charter school fails to meet or exceed expected growth, as defined by the SBE under the provisions of Article 8B of GS Chapter 115C, if the school has a performance composite below 70% for two years in any three-year period.
Provides that the SBE may issue a request for a proposal to replace the school’s current board and administration for any charter school meeting either set of criteria for termination or nonrenewal of its charter if the school meets both of the following criteria: (1) it’s operating at its maximum authorized enrollment; and (2) all the schools in the LEA where the charter school is located and serving the same grades as the charter school fail to meet or exceed expected growth and a performance composite below 75% for any two years in the prior three years.
Requires that the SBE include the test scores of any student who transfers from a charter school to a traditional public school in the 45 days prior to the administration of end-of-grade or end-of-course tests in the LEA in the charter school’s composite test scores for purposes of calculating expected growth or performance composite data for the charter school.
The above provisions apply to school academic growth and performance composite data based on testing from the 2009-10 school year and any subsequent school year.
State and local funds for a charter school. Amends GS 115C-238.29H to provide that when a child enrolled in a charter school leaves that charter school for any reason and enrolls in a public school during the same school year, the charter school is required to return a pro rata amount of funds allocated for that child to the SBE and the SBE is to reallocate those funds to the LEA in which the public school is located.
Reporting requirement. Directs the Commission, beginning in 2012, to prepare an annual report to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Commission no later than October 15 of each year. Provides for the minimum content of the report to include (1) the Commission’s strategic vision and plan for charter schools, (2) the academic and financial performance of all operating charter schools, (3) the status of the Commission’s charter school portfolio, and (4) composite annual data disaggregated by charter school on the gender, race and ethnicity and disability status of students enrolled in charter schools; testing data disaggregated by the purpose of the charter school and by gender, race and ethnicity, and disability; the number of students long-term suspended and expelled; the number of students receiving a free and reduced meal plan through a federal subsidy program or through means other than a federal subsidy program; and the number of students receiving special education services.
Repeals GS 135-5.3, (regarding optional participation for charter schools operated by private nonprofit corporations in the state retirement plan), and GS 135-45.5 (regarding optional participation for charter schools operated by private nonprofit corporations in the state health plan). Makes additional conforming changes.
Unless otherwise indicated, this act becomes effective July 1, 2011.