Charter schools are public schools, so say their supporters whenever someone says that the charters are robbing public schools of funding.
Charter schools are run by private nonprofit boards that are authorized by the state to receive public education money. They received $304.7 million from the state this year, a number that will grow as more charter schools open in August.
School districts, which have no control over charters, are required to pass along a share of county education money based on the number of students enrolled. Mecklenburg County taxpayers contributed $23 million to charter schools this year.
And so they are, technically. They're just like other public schools, except:
- they don't have to provide transportation;
- they don't have to provide meals;
- they don't have to hire certified teachers;
- they don't have to follow the same curriculum; and
- they don't have to be accountable for much of their actions or results.
One of the few things charters are accountable for is abiding by public records and public meetings laws. You know, since we taxpayers are funding these schools, we ought to be able to see how they're spending their money, how much teachers and administrators are being paid and so on.
As part of their contract to receive public money, charter boards agree to abide by state laws that require their board meetings to be open to the public and require disclosure of records on spending and other matters.
A bill introduced last month, which focuses mainly on an appeals process for applicants rejected by a screening panel, specified that charter schools face the same disclosure requirements and privacy protections as traditional public schools. It was sponsored by Sens. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, and Bill Cook, R-Beaufort.
However, a substitute version was introduced Wednesday in the Senate education committee, which Tillman chairs. The substitute would “remove the provision that the charter school and its board of directors are subject to the public records and open meetings laws,” according to a document distributed at the meeting.
Surely Jerry has some great rationale and justification for such a blatant attempt at removing transparency of how our tax dollars are spent, right?
Tillman did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday and Thursday.