Measuring Up to the Model



North Carolina

TOTAL SCORE:
144 out of 228

Rank: 19 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1996
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  127
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  58,933

North Carolina enacted legislation in 2013 that affected its charter school law.

As a result, North Carolina’s score increased from 125 points in 2013 to 144 points this year.  The score changed because of changes in state policies for Component #4 (Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability System Required) and Component #14 (Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption), further clarification about the specific policies for Component #10 (Educational Service Providers Allowed) and Component #17 (Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities), and adjustments in our methodology for Component #3 (Multiple Authorizers Available).

Its ranking went from #23 to #19.

North Carolina’s law still needs work, such as ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities and providing adequate authorizer funding.

Do North Carolina's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

North Carolina's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

North Carolina law does not place any caps on charter school growth.

12

1A. No limits are placed on the number of public charter schools or students (and no geographic limits).

1B. If caps exist, adequate room for growth.

N/A

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

North Carolina law allows new start-ups, public school conversions, and virtual schools.

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2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

North Carolina law requires applicants to get approved by the North Carolina Charter Schools Advisory Board and the North Carolina State Board of Education. There are 127 charter schools open in the state.

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3A. The state allows two or more authorizing options (e.g., school districts and a state charter schools commission) for each applicant with direct application to each authorizer.

4. Authorizer & Overall Program Accountability System Required

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

North Carolina law requires the state board of education to review and evaluate the educational effectiveness of charter schools and the effect of charter schools on the public schools in the local school administrative unit in which the charter schools are located. It requires the state board to report annually no later than January 1 to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee on the following: the current and projected impact of charter schools on the delivery of services by the public schools; student academic progress in the charter schools as measured, where available, against the academic year immediately preceding the first academic year of the charter schools' operation; best practices resulting from charter school operations; and other information the state board considers appropriate. The law does not require the report to summarize the agency’s authorizing activities, though.

The ability of the state board of education to continue authorizing can be removed by the North Carolina legislature and governor (the entities that gave it that authority).

9

4A. At least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state.

N/A

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities.

N/A

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report, which summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

4D. A regular review process by authorizer oversight body.

4E. Authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

4F. Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

North Carolina provides funding for the Office of Charter Schools at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, which serves as authorizing staff to the state board and others. The law also requires the state board of education to establish reasonable fees of no less than $500 for initial and renewal charter applications.

The state law provides that a charter school is not required to enter into any other contract.

2

5A. Adequate funding from authorizing fees (or other sources).

5B. Guaranteed funding from authorizing fees (or from sources not subject to annual legislative appropriations).

5C. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

5D. Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.

5E. Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

6. Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

North Carolina law contains application elements for all schools. North Carolina law contains additional application elements specific to conversion schools and virtual schools. It does not contain additional application elements specific when using educational service providers and specific to replications.

Although this information is not counted within this analysis (since these provisions are not codified in state law or state board policy), the application requires student performance, governance performance, and financial data from other schools managed by the management company and requires that the applicant must demonstrate how the management company is a good fit for the targeted student population. The application also specifically seeks information for charter school replications as to whether the proposed charter school is to be governed by an existing charter school board or a new board.

State board polices offer additional requirements regarding the application process, including general approval criteria and application submission and approval timelines. State law does not require the state board to issue a request for proposals, though.

Although this information is not counted within this analysis (since these application provisions are not codified in state law or state board policy), a state department of education-created application includes additional requirements for those schools planning to use an educational service provider, as well as for replication schools. The application also refers to in-person interviews and meetings occurring for promising applicants and written evaluations of each complete application occurring against a detail standard rubric.

All state board meetings must be open to the public, meaning all charter applications must be reviewed and all approval and denial decisions must be made in a public meeting. The law doesn’t require authorizers to state reasons for denial in writing, though.

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6A. Application elements for all schools.

6B. Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

6C. Additional application elements specific to virtual schools.

6D. Additional application elements specific when using educational service providers.

6E. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6F. Authorizer-issued request for proposals (including application requirements and approval criteria).

6G. Thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6H. All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

7. Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

North Carolina law provides that a charter school must operate under the written charter contract signed by the authorizer and the applicant that incorporates the information provided in the application, as modified during the charter approval process, and any terms and conditions imposed on the charter school by the state board of education. It also provides that no other terms may be imposed on the charter school as a condition for receipt of local funds.

North Carolina law allows the state board of education to grant the initial charter for a period not to exceed 10 years and requires the state board of education to review the operations of each charter school at least once every five years to ensure that the school is meeting the expected academic, financial, and governance standards.

State board policy includes requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools.

The law does not define the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer and does not define academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.

Although this information is not counted within this analysis (since these provisions are not codified in state law or state board policy), the state’s charter application includes many aspects of the model law’s charter contract requirements, including clear definitions regarding the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer. In addition, each application must state the measureable academic goals of the schools, but it does not need to address each of the performance metrics identified in the model law.

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7A. Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.

7B. Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. Defining academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged, based on a performance framework that includes measures and metrics for, at a minimum, student academic proficiency and growth, achievement gaps, attendance, recurrent enrollment, postsecondary readiness (high schools), financial performance, and board stewardship (including compliance).

7D. Providing an initial term of five operating years (or a longer term with periodic high-stakes reviews.

7E. Including requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools, if applicable.

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

State policies require charter schools to administer all state assessments and require the state department of public instruction to compile and publish the disaggregated results for each school and compares each group to the state’s average. North Carolina law requires charter schools to report at least annually to the state board of education the information required by the state board. It also requires charter schools to comply with the reporting requirements established by the state board of education in the Uniform Education Reporting System. However, performance data specific to other charter school goals are not annually collected, analyzed, and reported by the authorizer.

North Carolina law provides that charter schools are subject to the financial audits, the audit procedures, and the audit requirements adopted by the state board of education for charter schools, which may include the requirements of the School Budget and Fiscal Control Act.

North Carolina law and state board policies allows the state board of education to review the operations of each charter school annually to ensure that the school is meeting the expected academic, financial, and governance standards.

State board policies provide additional authorizer authority to conduct or require oversight activities and detailed processes dealing with any financial or governance noncompliance issues, including authorizer notification to the schools of perceived problems along with opportunities to remedy such problems and the ability for the authorizer to take appropriate corrective actions.

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8A. The collection and analysis of student outcome data at least annually by authorizers (consistent with performance framework outlined in the contract).

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct or require oversight activities.

8D. Annual school performance reports which are made public.

8E. Authorizer notification to their schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

8F. Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

9. Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal, and Revocation Decisions

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

State board policies offer renewal application guidance and detail a renewal process which requires schools to apply for renewal by completing their portion of the North Carolina Charter Schools Renewal Report, including a self-study that allows them to present evidence of success and progress towards the goals as outlined in the charter application and contract. State board policies requires the state department of public instruction to compile its portion of the renewal report, which includes various performance data collected by the authorizer.

North Carolina law allows the state board of education to terminate, not renew, or seek applicants to assume the charter through a competitive bid process established by the state board upon any of the following grounds: failure to meet the requirements for student performance contained in the charter; failure to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management; violations of law; material violation of any of the conditions, standards, or procedures set forth in the charter; two thirds of the faculty and instructional support personnel at the school request that the charter be terminated or not renewed; or other good cause identified.

The law requires the state board of education to adopt criteria for adequate performance by a charter school and to identify charter schools with inadequate performance. It states that the criteria must include a requirement that a charter school that demonstrates no growth in student performance and has annual performance composites below 60% in any two years in a three-year period is inadequate.

If a charter school is inadequate two of the first three years of the charter, the law requires the school to develop a strategic plan to meet specific goals for student performance that are consistent with state board criteria and the mission approved in the charter school and requires the state board to review and approve the plan. The law authorizes the state board to terminate or not renew a charter for failure to demonstrate improvement under the strategic plan.

If a charter school is inadequate for two out of any three consecutive years and has had a charter for more than five years, the law requires the state board to oversee an improvement plan and without improvement to terminate, not renew the charter, or seek applicants to assume the charter through a competitive bid process established by the state board.

State board policy requires the authorizer to inform a charter school up for renewal about potential concerns, requires the school to create a corrective action plan, and gives the school one year to implement the corrective action plan.

At the end of a school’s charter term, North Carolina law allows the state board of education to renew the charter for subsequent periods not to exceed 10 years each. The law also requires the state board of education to review the operations of each charter school at least once every five years to ensure that the school is meeting the expected academic, financial, and governance standards.

All state board meetings must be open to the public, meaning all charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions must be made in a public meeting. The law does not require authorizers to state reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing, though.

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9A. Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

9B. Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.

9C. Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

9D. Clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9E. Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract (in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract).

9F. Authorizer authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9G. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

9H. Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).

9I. All charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

9J. Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

10. Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

North Carolina law is silent regarding these arrangements, but the state attorney general has ruled that all types of educational service providers operate all or parts of charter schools.

Although this information is not counted within this analysis (since these provisions are not codified in state law or state board policy), the application requires student performance, governance performance, and financial data from other schools managed by the management company and requires that the applicant must demonstrate how the management company is a good fit for the targeted student population. It requires that the proposed management agreement must be provided with the application (and approved by the authorizer), with such agreement including at least the measureable objectives whereby the charter school board can evaluate annually the performance of the management company, and if necessary, terminate the contract without significant obstacles.

The application must also discuss how the charter school board will govern the school independently of the management company and include a description of the relationship that exists between the charter school employees and the management organization. Elsewhere in the application, the applicant must describe the board’s ethical standards and procedures for identifying and addressing conflicts of interest, including the identification of any existing relationships that could pose actual or perceived conflicts if the application was approved and steps that the board will take to avoid any actual conflicts and to mitigate perceived conflicts.

Furthermore, the state board’s charter contract contains the following provisions: no member of the governing board shall be an employee of a company that provides substantial services to the charter school; the members of the nonprofit board of directors affirm that they will adhere to a duly adopted conflict of interest policy, including provisions related to nepotism and consistent with the provisions of this section; the nonprofit shall have ultimate responsibility for employment, management, dismissal and discipline of its employees and in no event shall the governing board delegate or assign its responsibility for fulfilling terms of this charter; the nonprofit shall not enter into or terminate an agreement for comprehensive management services without the prior, explicit approval of the state board; the nonprofit shall comply with all state board requests regarding the management agreement that are reasonably related to compliance with all provisions of this charter agreement and the charter school statute.

2

10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and non-profit) explicitly allowed to operate all or parts of schools.

10B. The charter application requires 1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, including documentation of academic achievement and (if applicable) school management success; and 2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.

10C. A performance contract is required between the independent public charter school board and the ESP, setting forth material terms including but not limited to: performance evaluation measures; methods of contract oversight and enforcement by the charter school board; compensation structure and all fees to be paid to the ESP; and conditions for contract renewal and termination.

10D. The material terms of the ESP performance contract must be approved by the authorizer prior to charter approval.

10E. School governing boards operating as entities completely independent of any educational service provider (e.g., must retain independent oversight authority of their charter schools, and cannot give away their authority via contract).

10F. Existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Public Charter School Boards

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

North Carolina law provides all of the model law's requirements for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent charter school boards.

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11A. Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds, incur debt, and pledge, assign or encumber assets as collateral).

11B. Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).

11C. School governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

North Carolina law requires charters to provide open enrollment to any student in the state.

North Carolina law requires charter schools to hold lotteries if too many students seek enrollment in the school.

North Carolina law provides that conversion charter schools must give preference in the admissions process to students who reside within the former attendance area of that school.

It also specifies that within one year after a charter school begins operation, the charter school must make efforts for the population of the school to reasonably reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the general population residing in the local school administrative unit in which the school is located or the racial and ethnic composition of the special population that the school seeks to serve residing in the local school administrative unit in which the school is located. The law subjects a charter school to any court ordered desegregation plan in effect for the local school administrative unit.

The law allows a charter school to give enrollment priority to siblings of currently enrolled students who were admitted to the charter school in a previous year, siblings of students who have completed the highest grade level offered by that school and who were enrolled in at least four grade levels offered by the charter school or, if less than four grades are offered, in the maximum number of grades offered by the charter school, and a student who was enrolled in the charter school within the two previous school years but left the school to participate in an academic study abroad program or a competitive admission residential program or because of the vocational opportunities of the student’s parent. It also allows a charter school to give enrollment priority to children of the school's full-time employees and, in its first year of operation, to children of the initial members of the charter school's board of directors – so long as these children are limited to no more than fifteen percent of the school’s total enrollment unless a waiver is granted by the state board of education.

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12A. Open enrollment to any student in the state.

12B. Lottery requirements.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, siblings of enrolled students enrolled at a charter school.

12D. Optional enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.

13. Automatic Exemptions from Many State and District Laws and Regulations

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

North Carolina law states that except as provided in the state's charter school law and pursuant to the provisions of its charter, a charter school is exempt from statutes and rules applicable to a local school board or school district unless the law explicitly states that it also applies to charter schools.

North Carolina law states that at least 50% of a charter school’s teachers must hold teacher licenses.

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13A. Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.

13B. Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

14. Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Charter school teachers are not subject to school district work rules.

12

14A. Charter schools authorized by non-local board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.

14B. Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

N/A

15. Multischool Charter Contracts and/or Multicharter Contract Boards Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

North Carolina law is silent regarding multi-school charter contracts and multi-charter contracts boards. However, state board polices include a definition of a charter school that is to be used in determining whether the status of a charter school or charter school applicant is either one school or actually more than one school, and indicates that multiple schools may be approved for funding once such determination is made. In addition, although this information is not counted within this analysis (since these provisions are not codified in state law or state board policy), the application specifically seeks information for charter school replications as to whether the proposed charter school is to be governed by an existing charter school board or a new board. Thus, there are some vague references in state policy to these issues (although nothing specifically indicates that such schools must have independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school).

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15A. Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

North Carolina law is silent about extra-curricular and interscholastic activities eligibility and access for charter school students and employees.

1

16A. Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs available to non-charter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extra-curricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at non-charter public schools for a fee by a mutual agreement.

17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

North Carolina law provides that public charter schools must comply with state and federal laws pertaining to special education, but it is unclear about which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services and is unclear about funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs.

Although this information is not counted within this analysis (since these provisions are not codified in state law or state board policy), the state board’s charter application makes it clear that a public charter school cannot deny admission to any child eligible for special education services and that the school is required to provide a full continuum of services to meet the unique needs of all students with disabilities and the state board’s charter contract designates the charter school as the LEA for purposes of meeting special education requirements pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

2

17A. Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.

17B. Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).

18. Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

North Carolina law provides that the state board of education must allocate to each charter school: an amount equal to the average per pupil allocation for average daily membership from the local school administrative unit allotments in which the charter school is located for each child attending the charter school except for the allocation for children with disabilities and for the allocation for children with limited English proficiency; an additional amount for each child attending the charter school who is a child with disabilities; and an additional amount for children with limited English proficiency attending the charter school, based on a formula adopted by the state board.

North Carolina law provides that if a student attends a charter school, the local school administrative unit in which the child resides must transfer to the charter school an amount equal to the per pupil share of the local current expense fund of the local school administrative unit for the fiscal year.

It is estimated that charter schools receive about 76% per pupil of the amount currently received by district students ($7,397 vs. $9,720 in 2008-09).

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18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

18B. Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding, and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

North Carolina law allows the North Carolina Capital Facilities Finance Authority to issue bonds on behalf of charter schools provided that there is a 20-year maximum on the bond and that no bond shall be graded below an A (but it has not done so to date).

North Carolina law provides that at the request of a charter school, a local board of education of the local school administrative unit in which the charter school will be located shall lease any available building or land to the charter school unless the board demonstrates that the lease is not economically or practically feasible or that the local board does not have adequate classroom space to meet its enrollment needs. The law also allows a local board of education to provide a school facility to a charter school free of charge; however, the charter school is responsible for the maintenance of and insurance for the school facility. The law also states that if a charter school has requested to lease available buildings or land and is unable to reach an agreement with the local board of education, the charter school shall have the right to appeal to the board of county commissioners in which the building or land is located. The board of county commissioners shall have the final decision-making authority on the leasing of the available building or land.

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19A. A per-pupil facilities allowance which annually reflects actual average district capital costs.

19B. A state grant program for charter school facilities.

19C. A state loan program for charter school facilities.

19D. Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allow charter schools to have their own bonding authority.

19E. A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for public charter school facilities.

19F. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to non-charter public schools.

19G. Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.

19H. Prohibition of facility-related requirements stricter than those applied to traditional public schools.

20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

North Carolina law provides charter schools access to the relevant employee retirement systems, but does not require them to participate.

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20A. Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.

20B. Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).