Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Top 10 Stories of 2013 - No. 4

  At the end of the year, publications often do a recap of what they deem to be the biggest stories of that calendar year. But I dance to a different drummer so below the reader will find the first four potential Top 10 stories I would like to read in 2013. To keep the posts from being too long, I am posting them separately over several weeks. They will not appear in any particular order - it isn't possible to predict the impact of stories until all the facts are known so there is no way of predicting which will prompt the most impact and/or interest.
   So here we go...

2013 Story No. 4

    According to a story posted on the N&O website on Jan. 9, the North Carolina State Board of Education was set to vote on whether to allow online charter schools for K-12. These for-profit virtual schools, if approved, would be eligible to receive taxpayers' dollars as do traditional charter schools.
   The number of brick-and-mortar charter schools has been and continues to grow across the state. The creation of some, such as the new charter school in Corolla, are easily defensible. That small school is serving about two dozen students who previously either had to pay tuition to attend Dare County schools or be bused through Dare County, across Wright Memorial Bridge and onto Currituck County mainland. The distance between their home village and the schools that they attended made for long days for the children and made it difficult for parents and students who wanted to be involved in school activities such as sports, teacher conferences. etc.  
   But charter schools opened to fill this type of need thus far have been the exception. Many are opened simply because parents want a private school type situation funded by tax dollars.
   When a charter school is approved for operation, the per student amount of tax dollars allotted to the public school system is transferred from the coffers of the public school system to charter school. For instance, if Dare County gives the Dare County Schools $5,000 per student, that amount is transferred to the charter school for each student enrolled thus shrinking the public school budget. The charter schools do not receive funding for buildings or maintenance.
   Due to charter schools funding, Pamlico County school system may lose about one-third of its funding in the next budget. Martin County, a low-wealth county, is shifting more than $350,000 from the local public school system to charter schools.
   An analysis of the impact of charter schools on public education is probably long over due. It would be interesting to see the following questions answered in a story about the topic:
    1. What is the overall educational standards track record of charter schools in North Carolina? How to they compare with public school districts?
   2. What oversight is provided by the state to ensure that state-mandated curriculum is followed?
   3. How do students who leave charter schools to attend public schools adjust? Are they behind or are they ahead of their peers?
   4. Do any of the charter schools have mandated religious or unique interest training and, if so, should that be funded with tax dollars?
   5. Have charter schools prompted public schools to improve their course offerings and teaching standards? Or, because of pared back budgets, are they offering less learning opportunities and reducing their teaching expectations?
   6. Has the loss of students to charter schools caused public schools to be less cost effective? If the expense for teaching a course averaged $100 per pupil, does the reduction of students now make the course financially prohibitive to offer? 
   7. Should local elected officials and/or the local voters have a voice in whether to use tax dollars to fund charter schools in their districts?
   This would be an interesting story for some enterprising reporter. And the public has a right to know the answers.

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