North Carolina lawmakers are tipping the scales in a small charter school's expansion fight, a dispute critics say could undermine traditional public schools in rural communities statewide.
The state House and Senate passed legislation Tuesday allowing charter schools to skip expansion approval by the State Board of Education. Charter schools operating at least three years and showing adequate student performance could add one additional grade to keep students who would graduate.
The measure would likely decide a pending lawsuit between Pamlico County's public school district and Arapahoe Charter School, which already enrolls about a fifth of the county's students.
Rural public school leaders complain that allowing unchecked expansion by taxpayer-supported charters drains away scarce local and state funds that go with students when they transfer, forcing layoffs and other cutbacks.