This story was originally published by NC Newsline, by Greg Childress

A Charter School Omnibus bill that allows counties to spend tax dollars on charter school construction projects has been sent to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.

House Bill 219 joins a growing list of Republican-backed education bills that Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to veto.

The omnibus bill was approved 61-41 vote this week. Four Democrats joined Republicans to pass the bill.

Charter schools are public schools that operate without much of the red tape associated with traditional public schools. And while they receive state and local dollars to operate, charter boards or the nonprofits they partner with have been largely responsible for financing school facilities.

HB 219 will likely become law because Republicans have votes to override the governor’s vetoes.

The same is true of another pivotal charter school bill on the governor’s desk. House Bill 618 creates a Charter School Review Board to take over many of the charter school oversight responsibilities currently held by the State Board of Education. The review board would approve, terminate and renew charters.

HB 618 opponents say the the state Constitution gives the state board oversight responsibility for all public schools, including charters. Bill sponsor contend it will streamline the charter approval and termination processes.

HB 219 also prohibits the state board from considering impact statements from local school districts when the board considers whether to grant, renew, amend or terminate a charter. District leaders generally submit such statements to prevent charters from opening in their communities.

Last month, Democrats peppered bill sponsors with questions about a provision in the bill that allows charters to give enrollment preferences to graduates of certain preschools.

Sen. Natasha Marcus (D-Mecklenburg) argued that children from certain preschools would essentially be allowed to skip the line to enroll in charters, many of which claim to have long waitlists.

“Parents who have been waiting a long time to get in, they’re going to be mad to think that there’s some side door by which, if you pay enough preschool tuition to send your kid to that one preschool, that somehow gets them in early,” Marcus said during a meeting of the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee.

If HB 219 becomes law, it will also:

Remove restrictions of growth for charters that are not low-performing and allow the state board to consider growth greater than 20% for charter schools that are low-performing.Allow charter schools to admit out-of-state students and foreign exchange students.Prohibit local boards of education from discriminating against charter school students.Establish a pilot program to allow Central Park Schools for Children in Durham to expand the weighted lottery to include factors to assist economically disadvantage students, including walk zones.Provide for conforming changes if HB 618 becomes law.

NC Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. NC Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Rob Schofield for questions: [email protected]. Follow NC Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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