Six North Carolina charter schools received approval Thursday to open in 2024, but a much-debated new school in Wake County was turned down.
The State Board of Education unanimously approved two new charter schools in Mecklenburg County and one each in Craven, Cumberland, Henderson and Wake counties.
In a separate vote, the board rejected the application from Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy of Wake County because of its ties with a failed charter school in Bertie County.
It’s the second time in recent months that the state board has rejected a charter school that was recommended by the N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Board. But unlike the divided vote on rejecting a charter school in Union County, Thursday’s vote against Heritage Collegiate was unanimous.
Charter schools are taxpayer funded schools that are exempt from some of the rules traditional public schools must follow. There are more than 200 charter schools across the state, with the heaviest concentrations in Wake and Mecklenburg counties.
Heritage Collegiate rejected
The Wake County charter would have had the same director as Heritage Leadership Collegiate Academy in Bertie County. The state board had cited academic issues and non-compliance issues when it attempted to close the Bertie County charter school and later transferred the charter to another organization.
During a January discussion of Heritage, several state board members brought up what happened in Bertie.
“Given what we went through as a board in the best interests of the students whose education was compromised during that time, I’m going to share with you that I have some very strong reservations,” state board member Amy White said in January.
The Wake County school system had sent a letter opposing Heritage. But Heritage argued it would serve a valuable need helping underserved students, particularly children who had attended Torchlight Academy, which the state board had closed last school year.
Heritage unanimously won over the Charter Schools Advisory Board in December.
Bruce Friend, vice chairman of the Charter Schools Advisory Board, urged the state board during Wednesday’s discussion to give all seven recommended applicants a chance.
“As we look at the applications every year, there’s two mistakes we can make,” Friend told the state board. “One is to give a board a charter school who’s not equipped to properly govern that charter school and get it started.
“The other mistake is to not give a charter school to a board who is equipped to do that.”
But on Thursday, no state board member made a motion to approve Heritage’s application. Instead, White, who is one of the board’s most ardent charter school supporters, made a motion to reject the application.
Movement Schools expanding
Three of the newly approved charter schools will be part of a national network of charter schools in underserved areas funded by Charlotte-based Movement Mortgage. Movement plans to open 100 charter schools across the nation, the Charlotte Observer previously reported.
Movement will add elementary schools in west Charlotte, northeast Charlotte and its first in Raleigh.
As a condition of approval, the state board is requiring that the board running the three new charter schools not have a majority of its members be affiliated with Movement’s parent organizations. State board members said they wanted to avoid any potential conflict of interest issues.
The other new charter schools are Flat Rock Classical Academy in Henderson County, Riverside Leadership Academy in Craven County and Agape Achievement Academy in Cumberland County