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Wed July 16, 2014

CoastLine: Charter Schools in NC -- What Role Do They Play within the Public School System?

Charter Schools in North Carolina:  What role should they play within the public school system and how is that role changing? 

During a time when every dollar spent on public education is scrutinized, lawmakers, parents, and advocacy groups alike are asking:  are charter schools effectively expanding options in the public school system?  Are they bridging an achievement gap?  Or are they siphoning taxpayer resources from traditional public schools? 

The level of financial transparency required of charter schools is a topic of intense debate -- both in Raleigh and among members of the news media.   Senate Bill 793, the Charter School bill, would make charter schools subject to open meetings and public records laws.   State leaders are working out differences on that bill in a conference committee.  Just last week, the State Board of Education approved a revised charter school application that makes some company financial information more public. 

Critics equate the lack of transparency associated with privately-held corporations – which often run charter schools -- to a lack of accountability in return for public funds.   The Star News recently launched its own investigation into the financial structure of Roger Bacon Academy, the for-profit management company that oversees three local charter schools.     

On this edition of CoastLine, we explore what public education experts say the role of charter schools should be in the state.  We also examine those questions that have arisen around transparency, accountability, and whether equal access to these schools exists in practice – or is just theoretical.

Joining us in the studio:  Nick Rhodes, former New Hanover County School Board Member and current Board Member of Public Schools First NC – an advocacy group for public schools that is challenging the role and scope of charter schools.   Nick Rhodes is also a member of WHQR’s Community Advisory Board. 

Joining us by phone from Charlotte:  former state senator and the current Executive Director of the North Carolina Charter Public Schools Association Eddie Goodall.

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