Lt. Governor Forest Sets the Record Straight on Charter Schools Report

Raleigh

Lt. Governor Forest Sets the Record Straight on Charter Schools Report

RALEIGH -- At a recent State Board of Education meeting, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction presented the board with a draft of the Annual Report on Charter Schools. Lt. Governor Forest asked that the voting be delayed to allow board members adequate time to review and add additional data for a more thorough report of the successes and failures of North Carolina charter schools. Lt. Governor Forest's motion to delay the vote was mischaracterized by several state-wide media outlets. On January 11th, the News & Observer printed Lt. Governor Forest’s letter to the editor:

Regarding your Jan. 7 news article “Charter schools in NC less diverse than traditional schools, report shows”: Last Wednesday I asked the State Board of Education, on which I sit as a voting member, to delay approval of the Annual Report on Charter Schools for two major reasons.

First, it is good government for members of the state board to have an opportunity to read and digest anything that will be voted on prior to that vote. The report was submitted for a vote a month sooner than the normal practice, before anyone on the board had had a chance to review the document, its claims, and its data. The state board members agreed.

Second, from a quick skimming of the document, I noticed several pieces of data were missing or lacking adequate explanation. For instance, the report did not adequately explain that many public charter schools are unable to adequately verify income data of parents. Therefore, many public charter schools reported they had no economically disadvantaged students or underreported those numbers. Traditional public schools can provide this data easily through the Federal School Lunch Program. Omitting that information fuels the media’s false narrative that public charter schools are only for the affluent.

This false narrative was exaggerated again by failing to adequately explain the racial data. The report emphasizes that public charter schools are “more white and less Hispanic than the overall traditional school population” but failed to equally emphasize that public charter schools have a greater percentage of black, Asian and Pacific Islanders than traditional public schools. If the media claim public charter schools are more white, they must truthfully and equally report they are more black.

The report failed to tell the positive stories surrounding charters. No mention that U.S. News and World Report ranked three of our public charter high schools in the top-five high schools in the state. No mention of the innovative practices at many public charter schools. No emphasis that charters have 19.1 percent more A and B accountability grades than traditional public schools. For three years I have sat on the State Board of Education, and I cannot remember a single time the Department of Public Instruction has said something positive about our public charter schools.

I also find it unethical for your newspaper to run such a slanted piece (front page, above the fold, no less), mention me by name and include my picture without the courtesy of an interview for my actual thoughts.

We should strive to make all public schools better. I have every confidence the state board will approve an unbiased report documenting the failures and successes of our public charter schools at our next meeting. I welcome the discussion and will propose that our Department of Public Instruction follow Florida’s lead and seek to double the number of Hispanic children in our public charter schools through outreach to inform more Hispanics in our state that they, like every other parent, have an opportunity to choose how and where their children receive an excellent education.

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