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NC weighs separate oversight for charter schools

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The North Carolina Senate is expected to vote next week on Senate Bill 337, which would create a new charter school board separate from the state Board of Education.

Critics of the bill say the bill dumbs down the teaching profession in North Carolina.

The State Board of Education currently has the authority to approve charter schools. It also governs how charter schools operate. The Charter School Advisory Council makes recommendations to the state Board of Education.

Senate Bill 337 strips the council and the state board of its authority and hands it over to a new 11-member board made up of legislators and charter school advocates appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The measure would cancel the current requirement that at least half of a charter school's teachers be certified. Charter school directors could decide whether to check job applicants for any criminal history.

"If Bill Gates wanted to come to North Carolina and teach computer science, he wouldn't be qualified," said Sen. Dan Soucek, a Republican who is the bill co-sponsor and education committee co-chair.

"When you have people of excellent expertise but don't have a specific teacher qualification, but are great teachers and experts in the area then we want to have them available to be able to teach."

Bill opponent and charter school critic Matt Ellinwood says eliminating the certification requirement dumbs down the difficult of the teaching profession.

"If you were to talk about someone who is a doctor or lawyer, you wouldn't say, 'Well why can't we bring them in and let them be a doctor. They're very smart and able to do it.' We wouldn't do that," Ellinwood, with N.C. Justice Center, said. "There is a reason why we have these boards and certifications to ensure a level of quality for all teachers just like doctors and lawyers."

Charlotte Huffman

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