Selected readings on US charter schools
The school choice event, part of a national tour sponsored by an array of advocacy and education groups, comes as North Carolina is authorizing a surge of new charter schools and launching publicly-funded scholarships to send low-income and disabled students to private schools. Representatives of area charters, private schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg magnets and home-schooling families gathered at the Carolinas Aviation Museum for a program hosted by Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.
“It’s clear that this is an important time for North Carolina in the realm of school choice. We must be clear-eyed in setting goals and expectations,” McCrory said in an 11-minute speech.
McCrory repeatedly cited the importance of ensuring that charter schools, which are public schools run by independent boards, meet high standards. He said he has instructed the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board and the state Board of Education, which oversee charters, to “take action, up to and including taking away their license” if schools fall short.
After lawmakers lifted a longstanding cap on charters in 2010, the state authorized 23 new charters that opened this year and another 26 to open in August. The largest share of them are in the Charlotte area.
“If any of them are falling behind and not meeting the standards, we will take action, because I don’t want that to be a reflection of the choice movement,” McCrory said.
McCrory and state Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg, celebrated the chance for disabled and impoverished students to get scholarships of up to $4,800 a year to attend private schools, starting in 2014-15.
Kevin McClain, president of North Carolinians for Home Education, compared the traditional public school system to train travel – “a 200-year-old technology (that) did great things for America.”
“Most of us don’t take trains today,” McClain said, comparing the wider menu of options to air travel. “The freedom is like the sky.”
The rally featured performances by students from Sugar Creek Charter in Charlotte; Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, a charter school with campuses in Cleveland and Rutherford counties; Prince of Peace Christian Academy in Greensboro; and Waddell Language Academy, a CMS language magnet.
Darrell Allison, president of PEFNC, said he contacted Superintendent Heath Morrison to make sure CMS was included. Allison said he wanted to emphasize common ground, “even if we may not agree on everything.”
Morrison has criticized Opportunity Scholarships, which Allison’s group supports, as a poor use of public education money in tight times, especially because the state does not require private schools that receive public money to meet any standards. But he has voiced support for high-quailty options, including charter schools, and is expanding the roster of options within CMS.
Two CMS magnet principals, Curtis Carroll from Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology and Ynez Olshausen of Waddell, spoke at the rally. Olshausen talked about the advantage students get by selecting a school where they learn in two languages, with options that include Japanese, Chinese, German and French.
“Global is not the future,” she said. “Global is now.”