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

NC Senate Approves Bill Removing Charter School Oversight From DPI

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The Department of Public Instruction oversees all public schools in the state, but that may change. The North Carolina Senate approved a bill Thursday that would remove charter schools from its oversight.

Charter schools receive state money, but have more flexibility than traditional public schools, and they have a lot of backers among state lawmakers. But Senate Education Committee co-chair Jerry Tillman told his colleagues he believes the Department of Public Instruction doesn’t share his enthusiasm.

"I don’t care what they may tell you, from the outset they’ve not liked charter schools. They’re charter public schools, but there has been some resistance because they seem to be a threat to the traditional public schools," said Tillman.

His proposal would create a separate charter school office under the state board of education. Senator Josh Stein said that makes no sense. 

"State board is essentially a board of directors that sets policy. They don’t operate programs. That’s done by the department of public instruction."

This is the lawmaker’s latest attempt to change the oversight of charters. A couple years ago, the General Assembly voted to gut the advisory board that recommends charters for approval and start over with another. The new group has been even tougher. So the bill would make more changes. 

It would reduce the power of some board members who have applied a more stringent standard on charter applications. Tillman says the market, not the board should be the decider of whether a charter survives.  He also expressed general discontent with Department of Public Instruction.    

"You think DPI has any constitutional authority. Not a single bit. We could eliminate them totally if we wanted to. I’d vote for it."  

The bill now heads to the House for a concurrence vote.