Charter schools are paid for by North Carolina taxpayers, so all North Carolina children should have equal opportunity to attend charter schools. However, a set of new bills in the General Assembly could change that. These bills would allow big corporations that donate land or equipment to the school to reserve up to 50% of the charter school’s seats for employees children. This is moving charter schools closer to privatization when taxpayers are the ones funding these schools.
Under one bill, up to half a charter school’s seats could be reserved for children whose parents work for companies that donate land, buildings or equipment to the school. Employees of those companies would also be able to join the charter school’s board of directors.
Rep. John R. Bradford III, a Mecklenburg Republican, framed the bill as an economic development tool that could help attract companies to rural counties. Companies would be able to offer classroom seats as employee perks, Bradford said, equating charter enrollment to companies paying for employee meals.
“This creates a vehicle where a company can create an employee benefit,” he said.
Meyer objected, saying the provision would have taxpayer money going to company schools.
“This moves closer to privatization than North Carolina has ever allowed before,” he said.
Another bill would allow charter enrollment to grow 30 percent a year without approval from the State Board of Education. Charters are now limited to 20 percent annual growth without board approval. Some Democrats objected on the grounds that it could fuel growth in schools that aren’t good. Allowing charters with bad records to expand would not be fair to taxpayers, parents or students, said Rep. Bobbie Richardson, a Louisburg Democrat.