NC loses RTT money–lack of charter schools to blame?

North Carolina missed out on the first round of Race to the Top stimulus funds, ranking 12th out of the final 16. The North Carolina Alliance for Public Charter Schools thinks it’s because of the state’s reluctance to lift the cap of 100 charter schools in the state. Here’s the press release sent by the Alliance:

“North Carolina’s arbitrarily low limit on the expansion of public charter schools and its lack of equitable public charter school funding data proved a “significant contributing factor” to its rejection in President Obama’s Race to the Top first phase funding.

Repeatedly stressed among the five Race to the Top reviewers was North Carolina’s low cap on public charter schools coupled with no future plans for growth. This, along with the lack of provable data demonstrating financial equity between North Carolina charter schools and traditional public schools, caused North Carolina to score significantly lower than first round winners Delaware and Tennessee.

Eddie Goodall, President of the North Carolina Alliance for Public Charter Schools, stated:

“Along with the school districts across North Carolina we share the disappointment of not getting any of the half billion dollars awarded today in the “Race to the Top” funding. The second round of applications are due in June and three and a half billion more federal dollars for our nation’s schools is at stake. North Carolina has a second chance to do the right thing and raise the public charter school cap allowing for the growth of quality public charter schools.”

“Public charter schools receive on average $1,200 less per pupil than do traditional public schools, saving an estimated $43 million each year. Many of the state’s public charter schools have significantly raised student performance, particularly in urban and rural communities. The benefits to students, families, and to taxpayers for raising the cap limits for public charter schools in NC are obvious.” Norcross is also a candidate in the Republican primary for North Carolina House District 61, and founder of the Phoenix Academy, the only tuition-free public charter school in High Point.”

The Alliance urges Governor Purdue and all General Assembly members to recognize that public charter schools are no longer a partisan issue. President Obama, Secretary Arne Duncan, 102 members of the NC House, and state education leaders like former Governor Jim Hunt, have joined the vast majority of North Carolinians who are demanding real solutions to K-12 public education. It is time to allow teachers to make more money by opening new public charter school markets and to meet the needs of North Carolina’s families. Please pledge today to support removal of a 14 year old cap and to strengthen public charter schools across our state.”

Here are some statements the Race to the Top reviewers made in regards to North Carolina’s application:

(F)(2) – Ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charter schools and other innovative schools:

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase1-applications/comments/north-carolina.pdf

“A charter cap of 100 is in place so only 5 schools can be added. It is evident that this is too limited a cap to provide enough charters in such a large state. There is no indication that more charters is a significant RTT strategy in the future.”

“North Carolina has a low cap (100) on the number of charter schools which translates to 3.8% of the total number of schools.”

“The state has a ‘low’ cap on the number of charter schools in the state.”

“The state law sets a firm limit on the total number of charter schools that can exist. It also fixes the number of charter schools that can operate in any LEA at one time. These laws have the effect of limiting the number of charter schools currently operating to 3.8% of the total number of schools in the state. The state has authorized additional schools that it regards as ‘charter like’. Combined the total number of the two categories of schools represents 8.1% of schools in the state. The latter do not meet the criteria for charter schools stated in the scoring rubric; so they are not considered for the purpose of scoring this subsection. (emphasis added)”

“The application states that the statutes and regulations are designed to ensure that charter schools receive proportionate funding, however, there is no evidence presented as to whether they actually do.”

“The process for monitoring the distribution of equitable funds is not clear. The average dollar amount per student for charter schools is provided in the application but there is no comparable dollar amount for public school students.”

“The state’s narrative asserts that charter schools receive equitable funding compared to traditional schools. The specific data that would enable a comparison of the actual funding received by charter schools on a per pupil basis with the same for students at traditional schools is not provided. …. Data that would allow for a comparison between what is available to charter schools and what is available to traditional schools is not provided.””

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