Cleveland County Charter Schools Score Big Win In NC Court

Charter schools in Cleveland county scored a big win in court this week as a judge ruled the district needed to turn over funding of $55,000.

Gaston Gazette:

The North Carolina Supreme Court upheld an appeals court ruling stating the Cleveland County School District must turn over nearly $55,000 in per-pupil funding to three state charter schools.

CCS Superintendent Stephen Fisher said the district was notified on Friday of the supreme court’s decision.

“We are disappointed in the ruling, however we understand that the Supreme Court has made its ruling, and we’ll work with our folks to make sure we abide by that ruling,” he said. “We’ll get that money paid to the charter schools.”

The charters involved in the case are Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy near Mooresboro, Piedmont Community Charter School in Gastonia and Lincoln Charter School in Lincolnton.

North Carolina general statute requires local education authorities to transfer per-pupil funding for the county students who attend charter schools.

The article goes on to describe the original complaint filed in 2012.

The Gaston Gazette reported that, “The charter schools contended CCS moved funds that should have been shared with the charters into a “special revenue fund,” making them unavailable to the charters.

Proponents of charter schools in North Carolina have contended for some time that they are underfunded and this suit arguably proves that contention.

More from Gaston Gazette:

Joe Maimone, headmaster at Thomas Jefferson, said he hopes this decision will help every county commission and the state legislature to recognize the importance of fair funding and that they will now take pro-active steps to correct inequities.

“The saddest part of this process is that the school system chose to continually appeal a straight-forward decision by each of the courts that heard this case over the past five years,” he said. “That means that precious education dollars were spent on legal fees, instead of on educating our students. The simple fact that the original intent of the charter school legislation is that ‘the money follows the child to the school educating that child’ was correctly supported by the courts.”

Back in 2010, Dr. Terry Stoops wrote a lengthy primer on charter schools in North Carolina. In it, he detailed the funding gap writing that, “charter schools suffer from an average $1,100 per student disadvantage compared to the district school average of $9,331 per pupil.

In 2011,five charters in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area had a judge rule in their favor on funding as well.

In 2015, I interviewed Dr. Stoops during School Choice week.  In that interview he laid out the difference in funding, noting that, “charter schools must use their operating dollars to cover the capital expenses”.

Here is his breakout in the funding difference for the 2013-14 school year :

Charter school PPE: $7,883.89 (operating) + $0.00 (capital) = $7,883.89
District school PPE: $8,477.00 (operating) + $455.86 (capital) = $8,932.86

Read the whole interview here.

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a freelance journalist and is currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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