Advocate for rural public charter schools
TO THE EDITOR:
Public charter schools in rural North Carolina present an opportunity for more school choice options and economic development in the state’s 85 rural counties.
Parental school choice gives parents the freedom to meet their children’s needs regardless of income or address. This value should be a priority in all North Carolina communities, especially given the majority of public charter schools are in urban counties, specifically in Wake and Mecklenburg counties.
Advocating for rural public charter schools ensures that education resources are available throughout the state while providing economic development opportunities within disadvantaged communities.
In North Carolina, rural public charter schools represent 56 of the current 107 charters while charter schools are only in 12 of the 40 most economically disadvantaged counties in North Carolina.
Education continues to be a high priority for North Carolina residents and expanding educational opportunities in rural areas would have a strong impact and effect in the immediate county.
For example, opening a public charter school may increase local job opportunities, spur creative use of existing infrastructure, incentivize community collaborations and increase access to local resources.
While increasing public charter schools in rural communities could benefit many, the idea also presents challenges, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools “Beyond City Limits” Issue Brief.
One challenge is the budgetary constraints, which is always a concern because rural schools are often limited in funds due to high operating costs and sometimes limited tax revenue.
However, public charter schools bring a diverse public and private revenue stream to the community through foundations, nonprofit organizations and private donors. Secondly, due to budgetary constraints and commonly limited capacity, there are limited course offerings available in rural public schools.
Meanwhile, public charter schools can help to integrate services and curriculums between established charter management organizations, helping to lower the cost to develop resources.
Another challenge is the difficulty of teacher and principal recruitment.
However, public charter schools, in partnership with a charter management organization or leadership incubator, could broaden the pool of individuals willing to serve in the community.
Rural communities also often have limited transportation services due to the high financial and time costs to commute. As a solution, public charter schools provide an alternate school location and allow for local education agencies to work together to cover transportation expenditures.
These challenges are common when providing services in rural communities; however, with North Carolina’s strong focus on education, many of these issues can be addressed through public and private partnerships common within public charter schools.
As a result, North Carolina residents should advocate for more rural public charter schools, especially in economically disadvantaged counties. This is an opportunity to work past the barriers and provide school choice to parents while serving as a catalyst for economic development with disadvantaged communities.
Maggie Parker ’15
Master’s of Public Administration
Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina