RALEIGH — North Carolina’s State Board of Education has approved grants that total $17.4 million to 34 charter schools to attract and enroll more underserved and disadvantaged students.
The awards are part of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Charter Schools program, Advancing Charter Collaboration and Excellence for Student Success (ACCESS). One of the goals of the ACCESS Program is to create a “cohort of 160 charter school leaders who can develop and demonstrate best practices in serving educationally disadvantaged students.”
The awards will be in the form of five-year grants between $300,000 to $900,000. The funding for the grants comes from $36.6 million awarded to the state through the U.S. Department of Education’s “Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter Schools Program.” The overall purpose of the program is to enable states to award subgrants to eligible applicants to expand opportunities for disadvantaged students at current charters and by opening new high-quality charter schools.
“These funds will go directly to expand opportunities for low-income students to attend high-performing charter schools,” said Alex Quigley, chairman of the state’s Charter School Advisory Board in a statement. “Too often in our country, school choice has been limited to those that have the means to buy a house in a wealthy zip code or send their children to private school. The ACCESS Program will increase equity by expanding educational options for parents regardless of their race or income.”
As of the opening of the 2020-21 school year, there are 200 public charter schools in North Carolina. Charter schools differ from their traditional counterparts by being operated by independent non-profits and their boards, which grants the school flexibility in curriculum and budgetary areas.
Public charters in North Carolina do get public dollars, but not as much as district schools. They also can’t charge tuition or discriminate in admissions. Unlike district schools, charters are required to hold a lottery for seats when and if there are more students applying than seats available.
“I am proud of the commitment these high-quality charter schools have made to eliminate barriers that would make it difficult for any of our students to attend their schools,” Dave Machado, head of the state Office of Charter Schools said. “The funds from this grant will go directly toward training leaders, developing transportation and nutrition plans, adding technology and resources, and much more.”
Charter schools can accomplish such enrollment through weighted lotteries, school lunch programs and increased transportation options. Funds can also be used to attract and help retain disadvantaged students through teacher professional development and increased student access to technology.