My Turn: Charter schools vs. public schools - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

My Turn: Charter schools vs. public schools

There's an interesting give and take going on between those who run charter schools and our public school educators.

Both presumably have the same goal, improving our education system.  Public schools use the tax dollars we give them as citizens.  But charter schools are also in the business of making money. 

So, it's intriguing what's taking place right now in New Hanover County.  There's an old abandoned high school near downtown Wilmington that the school board has long since declared too expensive to fix.

A private charter wants to lease it to fix it up and run it as a charter school. But the private group says the school board is requesting too steep a price for that lease. They say it's not fair.

This is an interesting dilemma for our school board.  I understand their hesitance. Legally they have to play ball with charters.  But they are also trying to protect their territory.

I think ultimately the school board needs to come up with a fair price for the school.  Competition works in the business world and it should work in our educational system as well.

That's my turn. Now it's your turn. To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at


Emailed comments from viewers:

Thank you for highlighting the subject of the abandoned Lakeside school building.

It is unfortunate that you could not have titled your piece "Charter Schools AND Public Schools" instead of having to use the "versus" as is the case.  And for readers who may not follow the topic, charter schools are public schools authorized to nonprofit corporations by the State Board of Education.  Public charter schools are tuition-free and must admit every child who applies.

Regarding Lakeside, the sole consideration should be the best interest of the children whom we are all trying to educate; and we should be cooperating, not negotiating.

One clarification to your piece is needed for the statement, "But charter schools are also in the business of making money."

In fact  under the North Carolina charter law, public charters are issued only to nonprofit corporations with volunteer boards.  Under the law, their sole financial goal is to operate the school in an economically sound manner and to ensure that the children attending the public charter school are being treated equitably under the law and not as second-class students.

All schools, whether district or charter, must obtain goods and services from the open market.  McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Microsoft, Apple, Dell, IBM, Xerox, Staples, the contractors, architects, food service companies, management companies, developers, banks, insurance companies, furniture companies, CPA firms, and law firms are a few examples of vendors who compete for the business of the schools and seek to earn profits by providing superior quality at the lowest cost to the schools.  But the boards of nonprofit charter schools are free to choose their vendors from the open market to optimize the price/performance trade-off.  Choosing facilities is no exception as recognized by the charter law.

The charter law states that local boards are required to lease empty facilities to charter schools under the terms requested by the charter school "unless the board demonstrates that the lease is not economically or practically feasible." To date, the board has not demonstrated to Douglass Academy that its request of $1 per year is not economically or practically feasible.  Nor have they explained why they offered the empty Virgo facility free of charge to Virgo Charter School yet persist in seeking to charge Douglass Academy students for the empty Lakeside facility.  Additionally in the case of Virgo, the board was to pay for extensive renovation while Douglass has offered to pay to renovate Lakeside.

The taxpayers have paid once for Lakeside, and the taxpayers and their children now own it.  They should not have to pay twice.

Thank you again for bringing this issue to the attention of your viewers.  I would be happy to visit with you and discuss this or any other charter topic at your convenience.

Best Regards,

Baker Mitchell, Trustee
Charter Day School/Douglass Academy


How can the school board justify using more taxpayer money for an albatross that's already paid for but they don't use? They should dump it and their petty pride and let someone else benefit.


I've heard twice now your comments on the charter school issue currently being discussed in Wilmington.  I'm still not sure what your point is, though, because both times I have been distracted early in your comments by your claim that "...charter schools are in the business of making money."

You don't say "some charter schools," but make the statement that implies making money is part of the definition of a charter school.  I don';t believe this is true.  My granddaughter has recently been introduced to the idea of charter schools in the Fulton County School District in Georgia.  There they make the point that the funding for charter schools will continue to come from the public funds for schools, but being a charter school makes it possible for the school to get a waiver from certain state requirements or regulations.  Is this different in North Carolina?

I also understand that there are commercial companies that will assist in developing and operating a charter school and I can understand that they would do this for a profit, and the funds must come from public funds.  But are there other sources of funds for charter schools?

I ask you to notify me if I am wrong in my thinking and explain where I am wrong.  If am right, maybe you should use your next opportunity to explain your misstatement on the air.

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