Friday, September 13, 2013

Meck-Wake charter gap: Smacking my head

A light bulb went on when I read the front page of this morning's Observer.

I've been puzzling over the large numbers of charter schools opening or planning to open in the Charlotte region, compared with much smaller numbers in Raleigh's Triangle area.

A number in the fact box with Mark Washburn's story on Mecklenburg County hitting the one million mark grabbed my attention:  Charlotte's metropolitan statistical area,  which includes surrounding counties,  has 2.3 million people.  Raleigh's has 1.2 million.

What?  Charlotte's metropolitan area is almost twice as large as Raleigh's?

That caught me by surprise,  probably because I've been so focused on the two school districts.  When I started the education beat in 2002,  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was the state's largest district,  with Wake second.  A few years later,  with CMS growing fast and Wake growing faster,  those positions switched.  I knew Charlotte was bigger than Raleigh,  but in my mind the two regions were comparable in size.

School districts,  of course,  are limited by county lines.  Charter schools are not.  Many of the large charters in our area are located near county borders and draw from two or more counties.  So the fact that we have so many more people in our greater suburban area probably signals a significantly larger market for charters,  whether they're located inside or just outside Mecklenburg.

Plenty of important questions remain about what the charter surge will mean for CMS, taxpayers, property values and,  above all,  for students.  But at least the raw numbers seem a bit less perplexing now.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the late 1990's and early 2000's when the school board and apparently CMS planners were "surprised" by the major growth occuring in far south and southeast Charlotte (and chose to mostly ignore it when siting new schools). Your surprise, Ann, is somewhat understandable since your beat is mainly Mecklenburg County. The school board's and the CMS planner's job, though, was to carefully consider and then adapt to growth trends throughout the county. One suspects that it was easier to ignore the growth trends--or pretend it was otherwise (Waddell anyone?) than to explain away why there were so few schools in the far south(and the far north) of Mecklenburg County.

Anonymous said...

Another discrepancy that was missed a few years back--Common wisdom, especially with some at the Observer and some local activists, was that Wake's African American and high poverty students were outperforming those in CMS primarily because Wake continued to bus. Turns out that by 2007 that was absolutely not true--in fact almost all of our demographic groups were doing as well as or better than similar groups in Wake. But it took the publication of a comparison study of the two systems' results by Queens College's Cheryl Pulliam before this was made public.

Anonymous said...

Ok, time for Wiley to post something, a quote with a pithy saying maybe, that will later be contested. He will then post again to point the reader back to his original post with a remark that reader was "confused" or "misunderstood" his point. Maybe even apologize then come back to split hairs.

Ah crap...I've just condensed a whole day's worth of posts into one. Need to find something else to read.

Wiley Coyote said...

11:38...

My apology was given based on taking the man's word, which turned out false.

Also, the information I posted yesterday was backed up with facts.

Some people have a very hard time accepting facts.

Anonymous said...

Ann Doss Helms, you do realize that the numbers you cite do not include the city of Durham and Durham County? Also, Chapel Hill and Orange County are absent. If those figures are included, the metropolitan populations of the two areas are a little closer. (For some reason, a few years ago, Durham and Chapel Hill were separated from Raleigh in the MSA figures).

Anonymous said...

Let's break up CMS into smaller pieces to bring back accountability.

Anonymous said...

charlotte also includes counties in sc...WCoyote

Ann Doss Helms said...

11:07, I have great respect for Cheryl Pulliam's work, but I disagree with your chronology. I did a front-page article in 2007 noting that CMS had caught up to Wake on same-group comparisons. According to our archives, Pulliam's study was released in 2009. She added context and analysis to examine the question of links to student assignment policies. But the fact that CMS' academic performance was rising while Wake's was falling was not news to me or our readers at that point.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Interesting points about SMSAs. I don't have a good enough feel for the Raleigh area to know how much students are crossing county lines for charters, or whether the metro area as defined by the census reflects the greater Wake charter area. And it's true -- the SC part of our metro area is not eligible for NC charters (I think they have a couple of their own).

Anonymous said...

Wiley keeping true to form...

For what it is worth said...

In the mid 1990's as many of us sat through the brutal, community divisive, politician charged pupil assignment hearings, it was evident the way CMS was going as the blacks and the pandering democrats took control of the school board and gained control of the county commissioners by packing in the suburbs in 2 districts.

The exodus started. And has only accelerated. Luckily newcomers to our area valuing education for their children are not making their first step into Mecklenburg County before realizing their mistake.

Anonymous said...

I think CMS is probably afraid to put more Charter schools in the south of the county because they fear people will leave CMS in droves.

They plan to curtail the growth in the south by making the schools so overcrowded and under-resourced when compared to the "urban" schools that parents are forced to go elsewhere.

It's "separate but unequal" all over again only now it's all in favor of the "disadvantaged", "at risk" or whatever the PC term of the day happens to be for the same ol' Democrat-graphic.

The only real advantages the schools in the south have is the students and parents.

And they can move any time they want.

Anonymous said...

Vote NO BONDS ! Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

11:14 You do realize that CMS does not control or manage the charter schools, correct?