North Carolina takes harder look at charter schools and taxpayer money

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Parents are fighting to keep a Raleigh school open after a state advisory panel recommended revoking its charter last month. (WTVD)

Parents are fighting to keep a Raleigh school that serves children with developmental and intellectual disabilities open after a state advisory panel recommended revoking its charter last month.

The charter may be revoked because of major financial troubles.

Students and administrators at Dynamic Community Charter School attended a hearing Wednesday afternoon at the State Board of Education to discuss the issue.

The Charter School Advisory Board told board members the problem will only get worse.

Kellie Penny was among the parents who attended. She has tried it all when it comes to her 12-year-old son's education, but behavioral and medical problems made learning in the typical classroom impossible. That's when she enrolled him at Dynamic.

"He's just making tremendous strides. He's a much happier child," said Penny. "It's actually terrifying for me because there's nowhere to put him. Mainstreaming is great when it works, but when it doesn't work, where do you put your child?" said Penny.

Dynamic Community Charter School opened last year to serve middle and high school students.

It's the only public charter school in the state that caters exclusively to students with special needs.

The school's lead administrator says the school now faces a $75,000 budget shortfall.

School leaders hope a combination of state money and fundraising will close the gap by the end of the school year.

The Charter School Advisory Board also has concerns about the curriculum and teaching licenses that could fall short of federal requirements.

"Public charter school legislation probably never envisioned that there would be a school populated only with exceptional children. I think, at a minimum, the legislators should maybe take another look," said State Board of Education member Bill Cobey.

"Before I found this school I was actually close to dropping out. If this school were to close down, I don't know what I'd do," said 9th grader Bailey Gladen.

The State Board of Education reviewed plans to revoke the operating agreements of four schools, including Dynamic, which can use taxpayer money with more flexibility than regular public schools. A decision is scheduled Thursday.

Records show the board last revoked a charter school in July 2012. They've only done it four times since an early crackdown 15 years ago, just two years after North Carolina's first charter schools opened.

Three times as many schools have given up their charters as had them revoked.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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