The North Carolina State Board of Education has approved two new charter schools in Wake County over the objections of the school district and some PTA groups, who say the area is oversaturated with charter schools.
The Raleigh News & Observer reports that the state board voted 7-3 to approve North Raleigh Charter Academy and Wake Preparatory Academy.
Supporters of additional charters pointed to the long waiting lists of families trying to get into existing charter schools.
In a concession to critics, the state board is requiring Wake Prep to open with 915 students next year instead of the 1,605 students it had originally proposed. Wake Prep, which will become a K-12 school in Wake Forest, had offered to reduce its enrollment.
Last month, the state board approved 10 new charter schools to open in 2020, while delaying a decision on North Raleigh Charter and Wake Prep. The latest vote means five new charter schools have been approved to open in Wake County in 2020, at a time when charter growth far exceeds the school district’s growth.
North Raleigh Charter Academy is a K-8 charter school that would be managed by Charter Schools USA, a for-profit company that operates several schools in the state.
Wake Prep would be the first charter school in North Carolina for Glenn Way, a charter school operator who made millions of dollars building, selling and leasing properties to the schools he runs in Arizona. Wake Prep will give selection priority to low-income families to try to get 35 percent of its enrollment as being economically disadvantaged.
The number of charter schools has shot up statewide since the state legislature voted in 2011 to lift a cap of 100 charters. Between the new charters opening later this year and those scheduled to open in 2020, the state will have more than 200 charter schools by next year.
After the N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Board recommended earlier this year the five new charter schools for Wake County, some PTA groups and school district leaders lobbied the state board not to approve them. Becauise of the concerns, the state board asked the advisory board to take another look at North Raleigh Charter and Wake Prep.
The advisory board stood by its earlier recommendations, saying that the state shouldn’t “cave in” to “anti-charter folks.”
In a letter to the state board, Wake County school board chairman Jim Martin and Superintendent Cathy Moore argued that charter schools are having a destabilizing effect on traditional public schools.
“In all of these applications, it is not difficult to see how the proposed charters would increase de facto segregation, decrease efficient utilization of public facilities and add no significant variety or innovative instructional programs in a county where parents already understand and strongly support traditional public schools,” Martin and Moore wrote. “Charter saturation is an appropriate way to describe the situation.”