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Union County board gives limited magnet access to charter and private school students

UC Early College sign.jpeg
Union County Early College
Union County Early College is one of the UCPS schools that usually has more applicants than seats.

The Union County school board Tuesday backed down from a policy that would have denied students in charter, private and home schools access to the district’s magnet schools. But that access remains limited.

Union County Board Chair Melissa Merrell says the district has been under pressure to ensure that students enrolled in the district get more seats in popular special programs, which are known as magnets in most districts.

Last year the board gave current students priority in the lottery for seats, but in December members voted that the 2022 lottery would be limited to those currently enrolled in the district. That meant, for instance, that eighth-graders in charter, private or home schools couldn’t get into high school special programs, such as an early college and an arts and technology academy.

The board reconsidered after complaints from parents and the North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools.

Tuesday the board voted unanimously and without discussion to reserve the first lottery for current UCPS students. But it will now allow other students to apply for any seats that are left over.

On Wednesday Lindalyn Kakadelis, executive director of the Coalition for Charter Schools, said she's trying to figure out how this compares with the previous lottery priority for UCPS students. She said the revisions still appear to create an inequitable situation for county residents who haven't chosen UCPS.

"I do not know of any other public school system in North Carolina that treats taxpaying families residing in the county with such unfairness or disdain," she said.

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Updated: January 12, 2022 at 1:23 PM EST
Updated with response from the North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools.
Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.