North Carolina charter schools are public because they receive a per-student allocation from local, state and federal government funds the same way traditional public schools do. No tuition is charged. North Carolina charter schools do not, however, receive construction bond money or funds from the North Carolina Education Lottery as traditional public schools do. Charter schools often supplement their funding through grants and private funds.
In North Carolina, the North Carolina Board of Education grants school developers a “charter” or contract to develop a school. The charter must specifically state the school’s mission and goals. Once the charter is granted, the school operates independently from the local school district. The school itself is a considered a school district and reports to a board of directors much the same way a private school does.
North Carolina charter schools are like traditional public schools in that they do not deny admission based on religion, gender, disability, race or nationality. However, openings may or may not be available because these schools generally aren’t as large as traditional public schools. If the school has more applicants than available slots, they use a lottery system to determine admission.
Charter schools in North Carolina must integrate the North Carolina Standard Course of Study into their curriculum, but they can be flexible in how they do so. Some of the schools, such as Mountain Discovery Charter School in Bryson City, use a hands-on experiential learning model in which students integrate lessons into outdoor activities and make connections between various academic subjects. Others such as East Wake Academy, a K-12 charter school in Zebulon, require students to wear uniforms and participate in a rigorous college preparatory program.
Charter schools in North Carolina must also administer the same standardized tests that are given in the state’s traditional public schools. State law subjects charter schools to financial audits but they are allowed to transfer money from one budget line to another if there is an unexpected expense, whereas traditional schools cannot do this. Charter schools that perform poorly or have serious financial problems can be shut down by the state.