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US Ed. Dept: Lift charter school caps and you'll get funding

http://66.225.205.104/SO20090609.mp3

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wants to see more charter schools across the country. Yesterday, he reminded states that $4.4 billion in federal stimulus funds are available for innovations to boost achievement including opening new charter schools. In North Carolina, the limit on the number of charter schools is 100. WFAE's Simone Orendain reports: To qualify for the stimulus funds, Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to see a commitment to raising standards on college preparation and boosting student performance. Duncan says one way to do this is with more charter schools. They're stand-alone public schools that take non-traditional approaches to education. Duncan notes successful charters typically have long waiting lists. "If something is working, to be clear not every charter is, if something is working and you're rejecting four out of five people who are desperately looking for this opportunity, why would you put a cap on that?" Duncan says states must set a high bar for charter schools and the schools themselves must have strong autonomy and accountability. But not all charter schools succeed. In North Carolina, the Public Policy Research Center gave the 99 charter schools a mixed review in academics and racial makeup. There have been several calls to lift the state's 100-school cap on charters ever since North Carolina granted them in 1996. Several groups including the North Carolina Association of School Boards have opposed lifting the cap. Leanne Winner is the association's director of government relations. She says each new charter school opening takes state support services away from traditional public schools. "And in a year where we are seeing lots of cuts both in the local level and state level, including the Department of Public Instruction, we need to make sure that that level of service is maintained for the traditional public schools in the state." States will be able to apply for the extra money in July and in the spring. The Education Department says states like North Carolina will have to change their charter school laws to lift the cap, before they can apply. But there's no guarantee the state will be able to do that, since attempts to raise the cap have failed in the past.