Charter schools started in North Carolina, as they did across the nation, as laboratories for testing ideas for improving education. But now the special schools – publicly funded, but privately run – are testing something else. They are challenging our common commitment to offering all children a fair opportunity at a sound, basic education.
Charter schools, approved by the General Assembly in 1996 with a 100-school cap, have multiplied quickly since Republicans took over the legislature and lifted the cap in 2011. The number of charters has risen from 34 in 1997 to 173 today with 20 more approved to open in 2018. The schools are receiving more than $500 million in public funds.
The uneven educational performance of charter schools and the implications of North Carolina encouraging their proliferation are explored in depth in the recent News & Observer series: “NC’s Charter School Boom.” The series, published last week and reported by Jane Stancill, Lynn Bonner and David Raynor, shows that charter schools have mixed academic results, but clear patterns of segregation.