- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A month after Lt. Gov. Dan Forest complained an annual status report on public charter schools wasn’t sufficiently upbeat, North Carolina’s statewide school board is reviewing revisions to the report.

The required report to the Legislature, prepared by the charter school office of the state Department of Public Instruction, noted that while black and white children attend charter schools and traditional public schools in similar proportions overall, individual charter schools are more racially segmented. The State Board of Education is expected to approve the revised report on Thursday.

Charter schools operate under fewer rules than other public schools, and some parents believe they offer a better academic and social experience.

Forest, who supports charter schools and other options beyond traditional public schools, said last month he rarely heard state school officials cheering charter schools and wanted more positives highlighted in the annual report. The revised version hits the mark, he said.

“I think it’s exactly the type of thing that we need to present to the Legislature,” Forest said. “Ultimately they make decisions based on reports like that.”

Forest objected to a portion of the earlier version that cited a 2015 study by Duke University researchers who wrote that “the charter schools in North Carolina are increasingly serving the interests of relatively able white students in racially imbalanced schools.”

That detail remains in the revised report.

The report now lists the seven charters that had high percentages of students in poverty and still achieved high academic growth, as well as six other schools that exceeded student growth expectations despite having a greater-than-average number of poor students.

The revision also adds that about 38,000 students were on waiting lists for admission to the roughly half of the 158 operating charter schools that responded to a December survey. The report notes that it’s not known how many students were on multiple school lists.

The revised report also notes that while charters and traditional schools have about the same proportion of students who are American Indian, Asian and black, charter schools are about 15 percent more white and half as Hispanic.

Charter schools, created in North Carolina almost two decades ago, now enroll nearly 78,000 students. Their state funding has grown from just over $16 million in 1997 to more than $366 million last year, the report said.

Enrollment in traditional public schools has stayed steady at about 1.5 million students.

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Follow Emery P. Dalesio at https://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/emery-p-dalesio

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