NC Senate passes stripped down bill that makes updates to charter school law

By David N. Bass

Raleigh, NC – The N.C. Senate passed a bill Monday, Aug. 9, that would make two updates to the state’s charter school law.

The first change contained in House Bill 729 would put charter-school teachers on a level playing field with traditional public-school teachers when it comes to residency licensure.

The second change would make the superintendent of public instruction a voting member on the N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Board, taking away one appointment opportunity from the N.C. State Board of Education. Currently, the superintendent is a non-voting member.

During debate in committee and on the Senate floor, that provision drew some concern from Democrats concerned about the partisan implications of the switch.

The State Board of Education has a Democratic majority, while the current superintendent, Catherine Truitt, is a Republican. H.B. 729 would remove one pick for the charter advisory board from Democrats and fill it with a Republican.

“This is an advisory board that makes recommendations to the entire state board,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-New Hanover, in response to the concerns. “So the state board is the last stopping place for these recommendations.”

The version of H.B. 729 passed by the Senate is a significant departure from the original House version of the bill, which was more sweeping in scope.

The most notable change was giving county commissioners authority to make direct appropriations to charter schools to buy real estate, furniture, school supplies, school technology, and similar capital equipment. That portion of the bill had drawn opposition from the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.

H.B. 729 passed the Senate in a 37-4 vote and heads to a joint conference committee with the House where differences will be resolved.