Kris Nordstrom: Charter school advocates’ obsessed with small federal grant program, ignoring the funding they’re owed
In North Carolina, a long-standing case known as Leandro has established that NC schools are woefully underfunded–including charters. As the legislature drags their feet on what could be a $405 million windfall for charters, charter advocates instead focus on rules changes for the federal charter grant program–a figure of around $6.6 million.
For some reason though, the North Carolina charter community continues to focus on the proposed CSP changes, while staying silent on the much larger issue of whether or not legislators will fulfill their constitutional duty to provide students with access to “sound basic” schools.
Lindalyn Kakadelis, Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools penned an op-ed that grossly mischaracterizes the CSP rule changes as something that will “restrict access” and says the changes will prevent charter schools from “continu(ing) doing their jobs.”
Rhonda Dillingham of the NC Association for Public Charter Schools claims that the CSP rule changes, “put the brakes on progress towards quality educational options for everyone and damage our public school system.”
The John Locke Foundation’s Terry Stoops says that proposed CSP rule changes sacrifice “essential freedoms” and that these “politically motivated regulations will harm…millions of children.”
Again, the Biden Administration isn’t threating to close any charter schools or even cap their growth. The administration simply suggests prioritizing funding for charters that actually live up to the original promises of charter schools. That is, funding would be prioritized for charters that collaborate with traditional school partners to share innovative practices without harming nearby schools financially or exacerbating racial segregation.
These same charter leaders are strangely silent when it comes to Leandro. In the case of Stoops, he actively advocates against it.
Of course, charter school students face many of the same unconstitutional barriers impeding students in traditional public schools. Due to persistent underfunding, many charters have difficulty attracting and retaining great teachers and principals. They are unable to offer basic services like child nutrition and mental health supports. And many charters are housed in dilapidated or subpar facilities.
In recent years, charter schools have struggled to provide their students the same academic growth as their peers in traditional public schools.
The 45 percent increase in funding offered by the Leandro plan will help reverse these negative trends in North Carolina’s charter schools. Just as in traditional public schools, Leandro funding will allow charter schools to expand course offerings, enrichment programs, and extracurricular activities.