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Veto attempts to stymie virtual charter enrollment

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill today that would allow the state’s virtual charter schools to expand enrollment annually by 20% if they so chose.

The state’s two virtual charters are NC Virtual Academy and NC Cyber Academy. Both schools have been operating since 2015 with little success. Though they both have more than 2,000 students, they have consistently shown poor performance on statewide metrics of achievement and growth. In the most recent release of the school performance grades, they both received D’s and neither met academic growth. The law currently caps the two schools at 2,592 students. 

“Current law already allows the State Board of Education to lift the enrollment cap on virtual charter schools. Both schools have been low performing, raising concern about the effectiveness of this pilot,” Gov. Cooper said in his veto “Decisions on adding more students should remain with the Board so it can measure progress and make decisions that will provide the best education for students.”

Proponents of the bill have said that the schools attract “struggling students” and shouldn’t have a cap that artificially cuts off the number of such students. 

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, hit back quickly on Twitter following the release of a News & Observer article about the veto. 

Moore’s spokesperson Joseph Kyzer also said on Twitter that some House Democrats supported the legislation. 

Bill D’Elia, spokesperson for Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in an e-mail that the veto goes against the wishes of parents who want to enroll their children in the virtual charter schools. 

“It’s disappointing that Governor Cooper continues to fight against empowering parents to put their children in an educational setting that best fits their needs,” he wrote. “As recent enrollment numbers show, more parents than ever are taking control of their child’s education, as parents, not politicians, should be the ones making these decisions.”

After the bill passed the General Assembly, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) and the NC Justice Center sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper asking him to veto the legislation. After the governor’s announcement of the veto, the NCAE sent out the following response: 

“Unproven and unaccountable education methods have no place in North Carolina,” said NCAE President Mark Jewell. “We applaud the Governor’s veto of SB 392, and hope this sends a clear message to lawmakers that our students deserve better than the broken promises made by virtual charter schools. We must invest in instruction with the proven educational outcomes that our schools provide, and stop wasting money on out-of-state, for-profit experiments.”

The law passed by the General Assembly covers a variety of changes to charter school laws, but the most controversial involved the two virtual charter schools. 

At present, the legislation would have only applied to NC Virtual Academy because NC Cyber Academy is undergoing monthly monitoring by the Charter School Advisory Board. Until it comes off of that status, it would need State Board of Education approval to grow under the bill.  

As referenced in the governor’s statement, both schools could still grow above their capped enrollment numbers under current state law if the State Board of Education deemed it in the best interest of students. In fact, the State Board already did just that recently with NC Virtual Academy. 

Now that the governor has vetoed the legislation, it could go back to the General Assembly for an attempt at an override vote. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.