At the prompting of the North Carolina School Boards Association, the Macon County School board has adopted a resolution in opposition to the proposed N.C. Senate Bill 8, known as the Charter School Bill. SB 8 would redefine the funding process for charter schools and could allow funding for private schools that would take away from current revenues for public schools.
“I hope everybody realizes how serious this is,” said Gary Shields at the Board of Education’s Monday meeting. “If the monies are taken away from the public school sector and put into the private school sector, we are in trouble.”
Shields, a recent addition to the board, retired last year from his position as principal at Franklin High School after decades of service in the field of education.
Of special concern to the board are changes in funding that would entitle charter schools to a portion of all funds that flow through local public school system accounts, including donations from private entities, reimbursement of expenses, grants for programs that charter schools choose not to offer (such as Head Start, More at Four, etc.), fund balances and child nutrition funds, even when the charter school does not serve lunch.
Grants and other funding received by public schools would have to be shared with charter schools and taken from the operating budget of the local school system, leading to a reduction in services and/or positions, but, on the other hand, funding that charter schools receive for specific programs have no obligation to share those funds with the local school system.
Superintendent Dan Brigman explained that besides lifting the cap on funding that could be taken by charter schools, there would be no minimum number of students necessary to form a charter school which could divert public funds to small home schools and other unregulated groups. The bill could also provide capital funding for charter schools which are owned by private corporations, further reducing funding for public eduation.
John Henning Jr., attorney for the Macon County school system, noted that the bill would apply to all funding, not just state and federal dollars. “If somebody donated a million dollars to the Macon County school district and there was a charter school in the district, they would be entitled to their share of that donation.”
“What we are essentially doing is creating a dual education system and wrestling over one pot of money,” explained Brigman.
The resolution passed unanimously by the board asks that the North Carolina General Assembly reconsider Senate Bill 8 and make modifications that address a number of key concerns, specifically:
• Provide a mechanism for accounting for funds that are not appropriated to share with charter schools.
• Allow for monies to follow the students involved, not requiring sharing of funds when charter schools do not provide the programs involved.
• Remove the provision requiring donor specified accounting and replace it with restrictions of use of funds as stated in the grants
• Allow for reimbursement of funds (such as bus fees, facility rental fees) to be accounted for in such a way as to not create a surcharge for charter schools.
• Reinstate a reasonable number of minimum students necessary to form a charter school.
• Reconsider the capital funding provision.
• Create a bill that is truly fair and equitable for all public schools and public school students in North Carolina and is not subject to ambiguities which will have to be resolved through litigation at the expense of the students.
At a minimum, the resolution asks that the proposed legislation be amended so that traditional public schools, “(1) are not required to share self-sustaining, fee-based programs such as child nutrition; (2) are not required to share preschool and other federal funds (such as free and reduced lunch) with charter schools that do not provide these programs; (3) are not required to share fund balance reserves; and (4) are not required to share reimbursements (such as facility rental fees and activity bus fees) to which charter schools have no legitimate claim.”
The resolution asks that the governor veto any legislation that does not meet these demands.
Besides the resolution and discussion regarding the new school calendar, the Macon County School Board had an exhaustive list of items on its agenda Monday during an unusually long meeting taking three and a half hours to complete.
Other highlights of the meeting are included here:
Gilliam’s Promise Survey
Melisa McKim, executive director of Gilliam’s Promise, asked the board’s permission to conduct an assessment test in the Highlands School to gauge drug and alcohol use in Highlands. Gilliam’s Promise has a mission of substance prevention and awareness, with a difference, by using an incentive initiative in pledging to each student grades 6 to 12 a $1,000 scholarship for each year they participate. A student could earn $7,000 at graduation if they agree to join a student run club and be involved in a series of activities and events in the Highlands community.
After a series of questions from the board it was agreed to give McKim permission to conduct a survey to assess student and parent interest for creating a Gilliam’s Promise program in Highlands. The board voted three to two to allow the survey with the stipulation she would have to come back to the board before setting up the program.
Macon County Schools Student Services Coordinator Marci Holland asked the board to approve an after school club that would meet every other Tuesday at Franklin High School, called RISE (Respect, Integrity, Success, Empathy.) The goal of the club is to inspire leadership among teens and to allow them to participate in group mentoring activities. The club will help students gain self-confidence as leaders and to develop as good citizens, parents and members of the workforce and their communities. Some of the activities will include creating a learning community, researching inspiring leaders, creating a leadership portfolio and leading a group. The club was unanimously approved by the board.
Support Groups Policy
Revisions for School Board Policy #330 involving Parent Teacher Organizations, booster clubs and other support groups were presented. The policy does not imply direct control or management of these support groups by the school board, but is intended as a guide for the groups to be consistent with the mission, goals and objectives of the school system.
Points of interest in the policy include: encouraging the groups to become incorporated as a non-profit corporation; have at least a three member board and a slate of officers; that board members be a parent or guardian of a child in school; to have a yearly audit and tax return filing; the school system may conduct a yearly review of the groups finances; funds raised by the groups are to be spent in support of school programs with the knowledge and support of the principal.
In addition, the policy advises the following: have separate accounts from the schools; discourage groups from using checking accounts that can be accessed by debit card or online banking; checks over $250 to have two signatures; all expenditures be documented with receipts; the school system’s review of group expenditures made easier with a form that may be developed by the school’s finance officer; and encourage groups to plan activities early with the involvement of the school principal.
The purpose for the revisions is to help support groups be more cohesive, have more accountability to the schools and improve parents’ expectations. The board unanimously approved the first reading of policy revisions.
Franklin Archery Club
Franklin Archers club president Roger Hall came before the board to request the use of the old Cartoogechaye School property as an indoor/outdoor archery range. The building will allow the club to provide a safe and structured environment for indoor and outdoor activities including archery tournaments. The facility would be used by club members, guests, school organizations and community programs. The club assured the board that member insurance will cover the facility and that minors would be accompanied by adults. The club also offered to work with and assist the school’s own archery team. The board unanimously approved the use of the old school upon review of the club’s insurance and the board’s liability.