Anyone who wants to open a charter school in North Carolina in 2015 must file a letter of intent by noon Sept. 6.
Joel Medley, director of the N.C. Office of Charter Schools, disagrees. The deadline has been posted on the web site and publicized to anyone who has inquired about opening a school since last November, he said.
If there's a drop in applications, Medley said he's more likely to blame a new application fee. Lawmakers set a range of $500 to $1,000; the state Board of Education will soon decide what the fee will be. Medley said he doesn't know how the money will be spent: "We did not propose that."
Bottom line: North Carolina is still trying to sort out a system for granting large numbers of charters every year. When the state authorized charter schools -- public schools run by independent nonprofit boards, rather than school districts -- in the late 1990s, it capped the total at 100. For years, the only openings were for a handful of spots that came open when an existing school closed.
Two years ago legislators lifted the cap, creating a surge of new schools, especially in the Charlotte region. Twenty-three opened this summer, six of them in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties.
Applicants must work their way through an evolving process. Those who file letters of intent follow up with full-fledged applications that detail their plans for education, spending and governance. Those are reviewed by an advisory panel -- legislators just created a new board to handle that work -- and sent to the state Board of Education for final approval.
Last time around, the charter office got 156 letters of intent and 70 actual applications. The old advisory council recommended 26 for approval, and the Board of Education voted in August to consider six more. The board is scheduled to vote on the final list next week.