The Follies

The Follies

- in Fitzsimon File

Not so fast on charters

Here is something for the folks negotiating charter school legislation to consider—a national study released this week raises serious questions about one widely acclaimed charter program.

Researchers at Western Michigan University found that the KIPP charter schools have extremely high dropout rates. KIPP schools are often cited by charter supporters for their success in improving the achievement of low income African-American students by instituting much longer school hours than traditional public schools and strict requirements for parental participation.

But the study found that 40 percent of the black males enrolled at the schools dropout between the sixth and eighth grades. Dropout, of course, means head back to the traditional public schools in their area where their performance and test scores are not counted when the KIPP schools are evaluated.

The study comes on the heels of the Carolina Issues Poll released this week by N.C. Policy Watch finding that while people have a generally favorable overall impression of charters, they want them to remain under the auspices of the State Board of Education, believe they should be required to provide lunch and transportation to students who need them, and think they should be required to hire certified teachers.

Those are three of the points of contention in the current negotiations. The last thing we need in a year when lawmakers are slashing funding for education is to set up a largely unregulated and unaccountable parallel school system to drain away money from traditional public schools.

A reminder about tuition

Here are a couple of facts about tuition at UNC schools for folks saying that big tuition increases ought to be part of how lawmakers address the state budget shortfall.

In 2000-2001 the in-state tuition at North Carolina Central was $982 a year. In 2010-2011 it is $2,812.

At UNC-Chapel Hill in 2000-2001, state residents paid $1,860 in tuition. This year, they pay $4,815.

Those numbers don’t include fees, which add hundreds of dollars and of course they don’t include living expenses for students at school, which pushes the average annual cost much higher, to as much as $20,000 at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The latest census figures show that the median household income in North Carolina is just over $46,000 a year.

Not too many families can afford to spend almost half their income on their son or daughter’s college education. Big tuition increases will put a college education even more out of reach.

Table for two with guns

The House gave final approval this week to legislation to allow people to carry concealed weapons in parks and restaurants that serve alcohol. Nothing says family outing quite like taking your kids out to eat at a place where people are drinking too much and there are loaded weapons at the ready.

Stam-ping out jobs

The Triangle Business Journal reports that House Majority Leader Paul Stam is still hard at work designing legislation to abolish the Golden Leaf Fund and transfer the endowment to the state pension plan, already one of the soundest in the nation.

Stam apparently believes that one thing we need in this time of high poverty and unemployment is to stop investing in poor communities to create jobs.

Let’s hope Stam isn’t able to convince a majority of his colleagues to stop funding local job efforts. If he does, look for another appearance of the veto stamp at governor’s office.

Finally creating jobs, or a job

House Speaker Thom Tillis announced this week that he was hiring former Representative Bruce Goforth as an adviser. And you thought the Republicans were not interested in creating jobs.

Tillis already has former Rep. Charles Thomas on the payroll as his Chief of Staff and former Rep. Bill Daughtridge was paid to help Tillis with his transition efforts.

If Tillis can find a couple more ex-legislators to hire, they could form their own pretend legislative committees in the office and have votes and everything.

About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.
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