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Jackson County Schools passes resolution opposing “Charter School Omnibus” Bill

By Kristin Fox

This week at their monthly school board meeting held at the central office, the Jackson County School System followed similar action taken by several other school districts around the state to pass a resolution opposing House Bill 219. Following a recommendation by Dr. Dana Ayers, Superintendent of the Jackson County School System, the school board voted unanimously to approve the “Resolution by the Jackson County Board of Education Opposing House Bill 219, ‘Charter School Omnibus.’”

HB 219 proposes to change the current law which provides equal funding for all K-12 students. The proposed bill would change how per-pupil funding is determined forcing public schools to “share” with local charter schools.

North Carolina House of Representative Mike Clampitt, who represents Jackson County, serves as one of the co-sponsors for the bill.

Over the past 20 years, the courts of North Carolina and the General Assembly have confronted the issue of fair funding for students attending charter schools and local school districts in a manner that has created equal K-12 funding and put an end to contentious litigation caused by the original charter funding model.

“For the public’s awareness this is a well-settled area of law in terms of what charter schools receive from public schools,” said Jackson County School System Attorney Ashley Leonard. “HB 219 would upend that well-settled area, and we would expect a significant increase in litigation as well between charter school and public school districts which would be costly for school systems.” 

Local funding given to local school districts and placed in the district’s local current expense fund is shared with charter schools on an equal per pupil basis including county appropriations, fines and forfeitures, and special school tax dollars flowing to a charter school located in the taxing district. 

The current law recognizes that local school districts receive certain funds that should not be apportioned or “shared” with charter schools because 1) the charter school does not provide the program or service for which the funds are received, 2) the funds are simply a reimbursement to the local school district for unrestricted monies already spent including revenues previously shared with charter schools, and/or 3) the monies are legally restricted and cannot be shared.

The current statute contains the list of funds not shared with charter schools including reimbursements, indirect costs, tuition, fees for actual costs, sales tax revenues distributed using the ad valorem method, sales tax refunds, gifts and grants restricted as to use, trust funds, federal appropriations made directly to local school administrative units, and funds received for prekindergarten programs; in addition, the appropriation or use of fund balance or interest income by a local school administrative unit shall not be construed as a local current expense appropriation.

HB 219 deletes the list of protected funds with the exception of trust funds, federal grants restricted as to use, and special programs; By deleting the list of protected funds, HB 219 creates unequal rather than equal local funding for K-12 education.

Charter schools are not legally required to pay any funds to local school districts regardless of the source of revenue including federal funds, grants, and gifts.

“HB 219 could be detrimental to public schools,” said Ayers. “If this passes it will mean that from the budgets that we have that are allocated to us, federal and state, we would have to give a portion of that to charter schools. This would include all our budgets including our fund balance, which is like our savings account.” 

“We would be required by our own North Carolina government to divvy out portions of our funds to charter schools who are already funded because they are also a public school, so they would in a sense get doubly funded,” she added.

“What is most concerning to me, and every public educator should be concerned and every school superintendent in North Carolina is very, very concerned, is that even things that we work very hard at such as individual grants, such as Dogwood Grant and other grants that we have applied for over the years, if this passes, we will be required to give a portion of this funding to charter schools,” said Ayers. “This would also include our fund balance, or savings account, and our money that is allocated for school nutrition, preschool or transportation, even if they don’t offer these same services. So it potentially could be very devastating to our budget and what we have worked very hard for.”

Supporters of HB 219 point to the current inequity in per-student funding between students in charter schools and students in public schools. Proponents of the bill say they would like to see equal funding for students.

On March 1, HB 219 passed the North Carolina House of Representatives and has been referred to the Rules, Calendar and Operations Committees. Ayers told the board that HB 219 was supposed to go to the floor on Tuesday, but that she received an email early Tuesday morning that it was moved from the agenda.

“I am hoping that there is some light in that,” said Ayers. “Apparently I reached out to someone who stated that there is a lot of noise from people about the detrimental effects this could have on the public schools setting. I am taking that as a good sign.”

The resolution will now be shared with members of the North Carolina General Assembly as well as the Governor.

The board encourages parents, students, and other community members to support the local school board in its opposition to HB 219 and in favor of the current law that fairly and equally appropriates local funding by contacting their North Carolina legislators to oppose HB 219.

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