I'm starting to sound like a broken record: Mecklenburg County again dominates the state in charter-school interest, based on letters of intent to seek charters for 2015-16. The N.C. Office of Charter Schools got 170 letters by Friday's deadline, and 43 were for Mecklenburg. Another 20 were for surrounding counties; charters can take students across county lines.
Next highest was Wake with 20, then Durham and Guilford with 12 each.
That doesn't mean that many new schools will open, of course. This is just the first step in a long process. Full applications are due Dec. 6. They'll be reviewed by a charter school advisory board, with the state Board of Education making the final decision about which will be approved for state, local and federal money. The state got 156 letters of intent for 2014 charters, with 70 full applications that were eventually whittled to the 26 that just won approval. Eleven of those are in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties.
|Students at Invest Collegiate, a charter that opened in uptown Charlotte in August|
"They are basing their themes on us," McCray said. "It's not like we're copying them."
Eddie Goodall of Union County, a former state senator who now heads the N.C. Public Charter Schools Association, theorizes that it boils down to risk and reward. There are plenty of potential students in Charlotte and its suburbs, while less densely populated areas pose a bigger risk of failing to draw enough students to survive. Meanwhile, counties that provide more for their local school district also channel a per-pupil share when students go to charters, making the potential reward richer in Mecklenburg than in poorer rural counties.
Probably true -- but it still doesn't explain why the densely populated Triangle area, with all its higher education, high-tech and government resources, isn't spawning a similar level of would-be school entrepreneurs.