VINROOT: Charter schools: a good decision and wise investment for North Carolina

According to recent data verified by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, the demographic makeup of the children in our state’s traditional public school systems and public charter schools is almost identical. Except for the percentages of Hispanic students — who constitute 17 percent of the children in our public school systems and 8 percent in our charter schools — the two systems look much the same.In their overall academic performance, however, the students who attended charter schools out-performed those attending school system schools on End of Grade (EOG) tests in 2014-15 by more than 10 percentage points (66.6 percent for charter students versus 56.2 percent for school system students).Moreover, except for one category (academically or intellectually gifted students, where school system students out-scored charter school students by one-half of one percentage point), charter school students also out-performed school system students in all of the other demographic sub-groups.This is a significant accomplishment by the more than 150 charter schools in North Carolina that have managed to compete effectively with the larger school systems of our state with similar groups of students. The charter schools have done so at considerably less cost to our taxpayers. They have done it a) without the benefit of any capital funding, and b) with only 73 percent of “local current expense funding” provided to the students in our district school systems).Certainly no one should argue that one system is better than the other — and I am not suggesting that. However, I do believe that it is fair to conclude at this time that charter schools in North Carolina are working very well for all of our students, at a reduced cost to our taxpayers, and should be applauded for their success.It appears to me that the N.C. General Assembly’s 1996 decision to implement school choice in our state through the creation of charter schools constituted good public policy, for which we should be ver