(The Center Square) – The state Board of Education will meet on Wednesday for the first time since North Carolina lawmakers imposed limits on its fiscal oversight of charter schools.
Gubernatorially appointed members of the board led a vote in September to circumvent the intent of the General Assembly by requiring the board’s approval to fund schools authorized by a new Charter Schools Review Board.
The review board, created with veto override votes for House Bill 618, was designed to streamline the charter school authorization process by shifting decisions from the state board to the review board. The move came after several incidents in recent years in which the state board voted to reject charter schools approved by the prior advisory board.
Following pushback from three Republican members of the state board – Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, Treasurer Dale Folwell, and Olivia Holmes Oxendine – lawmakers intervened to clarify their intent and correct course in the state budget. Republican state Superintendent Catherine Truitt also spoke out against the September board vote.
Language included in the budget approved by the General Assembly on Sept. 22 specifically states the “State Board shall not withhold or reduce distribution of funds to a charter school for any reason,” with a few exceptions. Gov. Roy Cooper allowed the budget to become law Monday without his signature.
The board can change or reduce funding if student enrollment at the school changes, or if the review board or superintendent of public instruction notifies the state board a charter school has violated terms of its charter, state or federal law, or “generally accepted standards of fiscal management” or federal funding requirements.
On Wednesday, Ashley Baquero, executive director of the Office of Charter Schools, is scheduled to give a presentation on the laws about the state’s charter school application process and provide an overview of that process from submission to approval. Department of Public Instruction overseeing standards accountability and members of the Charter Schools Review Board will participate, as well, according to the agenda.
Allison Schafer, general legal counsel for the state board, will also present a new policy on Wednesday to establish an appeals process for Charter Schools Review Board decisions. Under HB618, the state board retains an appellate role in the process.
Both the review of the application process and action on the appeals process will be before the state board’s Education, Innovation and Charter School Committee.
Like the September vote on funding for charters, the appeals process for charter schools is scheduled for action on first reading. Robinson, Truitt and Oxendine all raised concerns last month about breaking with the board’s typical policy of reviewing proposals one month for action the following month.
Board chairman Eric Davis, appointed by Cooper, said in September the need for board approval of charter school funding on first reading was critical before the new review board considers charter school applications and past decisions.
Under HB618, the review board is authorized to examine cases of recommended approvals from the previous advisory board that were later denied by the state board, dating back to July 2022.
The review board was expected to exercise that authority in September for the American Leadership Academy-Monroe and Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy in Wake County, but delayed those reviews until this month.