Cooper vetoes another charter school oversight bill

Published 5:20 pm Thursday, July 27, 2023

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By Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed on Friday another bill related to North Carolina charter schools that would ease enrollment growth caps and allow county commissioners to give them property tax proceeds for capital projects.

The measure, which received final legislative approval last week, also would allow charter schools to admit out-of-state students and let more categories of students attend while avoiding enrollment lotteries that are sometimes required.

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Earlier this month, Cooper vetoed a measure that would transfer decision-making on approving new charter schools from the State Board of Education — where most panelists are picked by Cooper — to a charter review board for which Republican legislative leaders choose most appointments.

Cooper’s veto message Friday focused on opposition to the lessened growth limits and the capital spending. Current laws direct giving charter schools a per-pupil share of operating funds provided to local school boards, but counties don’t share capital funds with them.

“Diverting local resources to build charter schools without clear authority on who owns them risks financial loss to county taxpayers who have no recourse,” Cooper wrote.

As for enrollment, charter schools labeled as low-performing now can’t grow more than 20% in a year. Under the vetoed bill, these schools could ask the State Board of Education for permission to go beyond 20%. The bill also says charter schools that aren’t low-performing could set their enrollment each year as they wish. Currently, these schools can grow up to 30% annually on their own, with approval by the state board required for percentages above that.

“Allowing more students to attend failing charter schools risks their education and their future,” Cooper wrote. “The State Board of Education should continue to oversee the enrollment growth of charter schools to assure success.”

The bill now returns to the legislature, where the Republican bill received at least some Democratic support in each chamber, for a potential override. There it will sit with the proposed Charter School Review Board bill and four other measures that Cooper vetoed this month. The legislature isn’t expected to return to Raleigh for votes until early August.

Cooper’s vetoes this year on eight other bills have been overridden. All but one occurred since the GOP gained veto-proof majorities in both chambers in April.

Also Friday, Cooper signed two other bills and said he will let a bill addressing changes to the state retirement system become law without his signature.