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An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

Big Drop In Applications To Open Charter Schools In NC

Lisa Worf

The number of applications to open charter schools in North Carolina is significantly down from past years. The state received forty applications from groups wanting to open schools in the fall of 2016. Nearly half of them are for schools in the Charlotte area. 

Three years ago, state lawmakers decided to lift the cap on charter schools. The state received a flurry of applications. The charter advisory group waded through about seventy applications each year since then with about thirty of them for the Charlotte area. But this year, the number is down to forty, with eighteen of them in the Charlotte area.  

Joel Medley who oversees the Office of Charter Schools says it could be a variety of reasons. There have been a few changes this year. The deadline for applications moved up a couple of months. Some groups experienced with operating charters can now apply later under a fast-track process. The price to apply also went from $500 to $1000. Applicants are now asked more financial questions and required to submit criminal background checks for people who plan to sit on the charter board. 

Eddie Goodall who directs the NC Public Charter Schools Association thinks there’s another reason fewer groups are applying. 

“Generally, smart people, business people use their time wisely.  When there’s a 15 percent probability of you being successful, people would look at that and say, ‘Is this the best use of my time?’” says Goodall.      

This year the Charter School Advisory Board decided to recommend 11 of the 70 applications it received.  Those are planned to open next fall.  That will be in addition to the 148 charter schools already in North Carolina.  The Charlotte area has 35 of them.