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Interest in starting charter schools jumps

The state Department of Public Instruction received 161 letters of intent from people and organizations who want to open new charter schools in 2014. The letter is an indication that the writer intends to submit a charter application by the March 1 deadline.

Charter applications have increased since the legislature ended the 100-charter limit two years ago.

This summer, the Public Charter Schools Advisory Council considered 63 applications for new charters to open this fall, and 25 were approved.

The State Board of Education earlier approved nine charters under a "fast track" process, and some of those opened last fall.

The advisory committee is scheduled to make its recommendations to the State Board of Education on the 2014 charters in June, with the board giving final approval in December or January 2014.

Bill allows more charters if run by school boards

Prodded by Gov. Bev Perdue, the legislature is racing toward allowing as many as 135 addtional charter schools in the state, as long as they're controlled by school boards. 

Under a bill the House Education Committee approved this afternoon, local school boards would be allowed to covert continually low-performing schools into charter schools, as long as the State Board of Education okayed it. 

The state has 135 schools where, in two out of three years, less than half the students do work at or above grade-level, and where they don't learn as much as expected in a year. 

The bill includes other changes local boards could make in low-performing schools, some of which they already do. 

The Perdue administration wants to have the new law by June 1, the application deadline for federal Race to the Top grants. 

These school-board controlled charters would not count towards the state's cap of 100 charters that are run by independent boards. 

A Republican amendment to lift the cap on standard charters from 100 to 106 failed in a party-line vote. 

Rep. Paul Stam, an Apex Republican and the chamber's minority leader, said the legislature needed to raise the 100-school limit on standard charters if the state is going to have a real chance at the federal grant.

"This will pick up a lot of points," Stam said. "We're not going to get that money without it."

Perdue wants the bill because it "will give local school districts new ammunition in the fight to ensure that every child, no matter where he or she lives, has access to a quality education,"  her spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said in a statement. "We simply cannot continue to tolerate schools that do not prepare our children to graduate ready for a career, college or technical training."

Correction of Stam's hometown.

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