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Charter School Bill Passes Senate Committee

A bill that creates a new board to oversee charter schools is moving forward.  The Senate Education Committee approved it Wednesday.    

Senator Jerry Tillman of Randolph County wants to create a new board specifically to monitor charter schools and vet applications for new ones. 

“I think you’ll get great outstanding people that have a real heart for charter schools,” says Tillman. 

The charter school advisory council already does that job.  This advisory group is comprised primarily of charter school principals and board members.  They pass their recommendations on to the state board of education. 

Tillman’s group would be appointed by the governor and the General Assembly.  The state board of education could only veto its decisions with a three-fourths majority vote. 

Tillman said in the committee that he hopes this change will get traditional public schools and charters working together. 

“What we’re wanting is a very good harmonious relationship.  We’ve not had this in the past.  It’s been hands off at best,” said Tillman.    

But opponents worry it will just create unfriendly competition. 

Charter schools receive public money, but some of them are run by for-profit companies.  Senator Angela Bryant from Rocky Mount worries people with such business interests would serve on the new board.      

“I just do have a concern about folks who are in this business being on this board, deciding what the criteria are and who gets approved and who not,” said Bryant.

“Senator, I hope they will be one hundred bleeding heart advocates for charter schools as I do with the state board of education,” responded Tillman.  “If you trust that process of appointments (you’ve never questioned it), you would trust this process of appointments.” 

The bill also includes several other changes for charters.  It would no longer require charters to run criminal background checks on employees, make teaching licenses optional for all charter school teachers, and do the same with college degrees for teachers beginning in middle school.  

In addition, in many cases the bill would force local school districts to lease unused buildings to charters for $1 a year. 

The bill now moves on to the Senate finance committee.