Bill allows state takeover of struggling schools


RALEIGH (AP) — A plan to hand over some of North Carolina’s struggling elementary schools to charter operators is headed to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk despite outcry from educators and local school boards who call it a charter school takeover.

The House passed the Senate version of a bill Wednesday to create a five-school Achievement School District pilot program for schools that have consistently shown poor growth and performance.

Supporters say the bill is an innovative attempt to better serve children at failing schools. Last year, 93 schools had less than 5 percent of students testing at grade level in more than one subject, according to North Carolina Department of Public Instruction data.

Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, the proposal would allow a State Board of Education-appointed superintendent to choose charter companies with proven success to run the schools. The companies would have hiring and firing powers and would be exempt from oversight and evaluations from local school boards.

The bill’s supporters say rural locations and limited resources trap students at schools where they are doomed to fail.

Opponents say it seizes power from local school boards that know the culture of a community better than outside operators.

Mark Jewell of the North Carolina Association of Educators has said the organization opposes the plan because it does nothing to treat the poverty issues at the root of poor test scores.

Rep. Bobbie Richardson, D-Franklin, urged lawmakers to reconsider their support of the bill in light of lackluster results from similar proposals in other states.

North Carolina’s legislation closely resembles a Tennessee Achievement School District, which was established in 2012. Researchers say student testing scores at the charter-operated schools have shown little to no comparative growth.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s office did not immediately respond to an email for comment.

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