Thursday, September 3, 2009

Construction money for charter schools?

Charter schools across the state already receive some operating money from traditional K-12 school districts.

But are they also entitled to money for construction and other capital projects?

The N.C. Institute of Constitutional Law believes they might, and could ask the courts to weigh in. But local officials say state law doesn't require or give them authority to share money with the charter schools.

As an article in today's Observer notes, the Raleigh-based advocacy group recently sent a letter to some counties, including Mecklenburg, questioning the lack of capital outlay money given to local charter schools.

Read the institutes's letter here. It is signed by NCICL Executive Director Robert Orr, a retired state Supreme Court justice, and Jason Kay, a senior attorney at the institute who is the lead on the case.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman already has weighed in, writing to Orr that school boards currently are only required to share money with charter schools from its local current expense fund. Read Gorman's full letter here.

Mecklenburg County also is preparing a response, though County Attorney Marvin Bethune said Wednesday he doesn't believe state law gives counties authority to give charter schools money from the capital fund.

That assertion is backed by a 1998 advisory opinion from the N.C. Attorney General's Office, though it notes that lacking authority doesn't mean that public money can't be used to support the charters. A spokeswoman said Wednesday that is the only opinion the office has issued on the issue and the language quoted in the 1998 opinion still appears in state statutes.

What do you think? Should the county, CMS give charter schools money for capital projects?

- April Bethea


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