The Charlotte charter school boom shows no signs of slowing

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Charter schools have boomed in Charlotte for the past half-decade — and that growth shows no signs of slowing down.

The city has been the epicenter of North Carolina’s charter school movement since 2011, when a newly Republican-led state government lifted a state law capping the number of them at 100.

The number of active charter schools in the state has nearly doubled since then — to 173 at the most recent count.

In Charlotte, the increase has been even more dramatic.

Pre-2011, Mecklenburg County had eight charter schools. Now the county is home to 27 of them, enrolling roughly 18,000 children.

Another two are nearing approval to open next fall, with three that failed to gain approval and may come back another year. Seven more are applying to open the year after that, though they still face numerous approvals.

The rapid rise in popularity has put pressure on the traditional public school district, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Charter schools are public as well, tuition-free and funded with tax dollars. Local school districts are required to pass along the portion of state and county money allocated for each student who chooses to enroll in a charter school.

CMS has been experimenting with more and different types of magnet schools to try to compete.

The percentage of Mecklenburg County students in charter schools now exceeds 10 percent.

With each passing year, the market share of charter schools continues to rise. Figures below come from the state Department of Public Instruction.

2016-17: 16,959 (10.2%)
2015-16: 15,535 (9.4%)
2014-15: 13,139 (8.3%)
2013-14: 10,804 (7%)

At the end of last year, CMS had 146,571 students.

The state education office projected another 1,600 students to leave Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for charters this year.

New charter schools are regularly opening with waiting lists.

Two-third of this year’s expected growth comes from the three new charter schools that opened in Charlotte this fall: Movement School, Unity Classical Charter School and UpROAR Leadership Academy.

[Agenda story: The Movement School ushers in a new kind of corporate giving]

Charter schools planning to open in 2018

Bonnie Cone Classical Academy

Location: University City
Grades: Starting K-2, expanding to K-8
Concept: This school plans to use the “classical education” model, which focuses on grammar, logic and rhetoric a la the Greek and Romans.

 

 

East Voyager Academy

Location: University City
Grades: Opening K-4, expanding to K-8
Concept: English-Chinese immersion program.
Website

Three other programs are unlikely to move forward after failing to get approval from the state charter school board: Myrtis Simpson Walker Academy for Boys, Young Inspiration STEAM Academy and Hillside Academy.

Charter schools planning to open in 2019

Ballantyne Charter High School

Location: Ballantyne
Grades: Opening 9-10, expanding to 9-12
Concept: “Flipped learning,” where students watch lectures outside of class and use school time for group work and collaboration.

Clara Science Academy

Location: Steele Creek/Southwest Charlotte
Grades: Opening K-2, expanding to K-6
Concept: Science, technology, engineering and math

Mountain Island Day School

Location: Mountain Island Lake
Grades: Opening K-11, expanding to K-12
Concept: They’re targeting “college and career ready students” seeking a more rigorous education.

Movement School East

Location: East Charlotte
Grades: Opening K-2, expanding to K-8
Concept: This is a second school underwritten by Movement Mortgage’s foundation. The first is on the west side and is itself a replication of Sugar Creek Charter.

Starmount Charter Academy

Location: Starmount
Grades: Opening K-3, expanding to K-8
Concept: They want to create a neighborhood school that’s racially diverse and matches the neighborhood demographically. The CMS school in the neighborhood is predominantly low-income.

Steele Creek Prep Academy

Location: Steele Creek
Grades: Opening K-6, expanding to K-8
Concept: “Personalized learning,” where students will set goals and teachers will use data-driven methods.

Steele Creek STEM Academy

Location: Steele Creek
Grades: Opening K-6, expanding to K-8
Concept: Science, technology, engineering and math

 

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Andrew Dunn
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