Sunday, September 27, 2015

Update on HB 539 Charter School Funding Bill

While the NC legislature finally agreed on a budget almost two weeks ago, they are not quite finished. This past week they brought back HB 539 for consideration. HB 539 provides additional funding for charters by taking non-instructional funding away from traditional public schools. Legislators will be considering the bill Monday Sep 28th, so they need to hear from constituents now. Moreover, some legislators are saying that they are hearing from charter school advocates but not from public school advocates.

Legal experts are confident that litigation is inevitable if the bill passes; this wastes even more precious state funds that could be saved by delaying the bill to study it. has contact info and bill info.

Charter schools already receive their fair share of all direct instruction monies and additional special education monies. This funding is following the child. But HB 539 requires certain other monies to be shared also. I'd like to share two examples to illustrate that this legislation needs to be tabled and studied.

Watauga County Schools provides an after school program. This program is self-sufficient, meaning that they charge families for the services rendered. There is no profit margin here, but HB 539 makes these fees become shared.

I am not completely certain how the sharing percentage will be calculated, but instructional monies are shared based on enrollment. Roughly, about 4.3% of Watauga students attend our charter school. Using this figure about $7.50 of the monthly after school $175 fee would have to be shared. Where will this money come from? Two obvious sources are the after-school parents in the form of increased fees, or some other part of the underfunded school budget.

As another example, Watauga County Schools is enjoying near record levels for its high school graduation rate. But we continue to look for ways to improve. If we were to receive funds targeting graduation rate improvements, we would be required by HB 539 to share those funds. Does it matter if the charter school does not have a high school program? No, the funds must be shared.

Watauga County is very fortunate to have a successful charter school in Two Rivers Community School. (Many charters have been mismanaged and folded.) I know many families that have children there, and I know many of the teachers. I appreciate them and the good work they do. And I support the principle that money collected by the state and allocated to teach students should follow those students that choose to go to Two Rivers. 

But as these examples show, HB 539 siphons away operational funds not even collected by the state. In essence it adds a type of charter school surcharge to many programs. I ask you to consider contacting our local representatives asking them to delay HB 539 for further study.

Jay Fenwick
Watauga Board of Education Member


Brother Doc said...

Art Pope and his buddies at the John Locke Foundation are pretty smart to figure out another subtle and rather obscure way to screw the public school system. Wonder if they learned these tricks in charter schools?

Anonymous said...

What I want to know are the names of the legislators pushing bills like this and their connections to private and religious charter school companies and organizations. Someone stands to make a lot of money off of our public schools. I seriously doubt the push for charter funding is purely ideological.

Jus Sayin' said...

Yes, anon 5:55!
If only we had a way to find out who sponsors bills in the state legislature; how each legislator votes and who contributes to his (or her) campaign! Maybe someday someone will find a way to discover this information and maybe even post it on the internet!

Jay Fenwick said...

The Senate passed the bill (in the closest vote of the session), but the House withdrew it from consideration.

Thanks for your help. It is likely to reappear in the short session in January, so keep your ear to the ground.