Six charter leaders face questions from committee of lawmakers

Six charter leaders face questions from committee of lawmakers

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday from six school leaders in a continuing probe on the state of charter schools in South Carolina. WIS continue to follows the story after ten charter schools left the Public Charter School District for the newly formed Charter Institute at Erskine for the 2018-2019 school year.

Lawmakers heard from two charter schools authorized by Erskine, two authorized by the PCSDSC and two with local districts.

Educators representing Erskine testified when they were authorized by the PCSD, the district held them to unrealistic expectations and a framework outside their charter.

"There was a framework that was extraneous to both the charter contract and the charter application that we were held to,” said David Crook, the head of Cyber Academy at South Carolina. “Standards to which it would've been challenging for our school to ever reach."

WIS told you the story from the perspective of Gray Collegiate Academy’s principal, Brian Newsome on Monday. Newsome also testified Tuesday in an Ad Hoc committee hearing.

"We felt like it was so unfair that we're going through every measure possible and we were not getting any support,” Newsome said. “And that was the biggest thing - we felt like we wouldn't get that support."

That testimony was in stark contrast to the two school leaders representing the Public Charter School District Those educators said the PCSD has allowed them to reach impoverished areas of the state.

"Right now with superintendent Elliot [Smalley], he has really promoted that topic of making sure that we look at schools particularly in the Corridor of Shame, which is 88 percent minority,” said E. Keith Bailey, the Executive Director of the Pee Dee Math Science Technology Academy.

Both Bailey and William Brown, the founder of Legacy Early College in Greenville, testified that their schools serve majority impoverished communities with schools that otherwise would not be there. According to Brown, at Legacy, the Title 1 school has 90 % African American and Hispanic students.

"We as adults have to raise our expectations of young people...especially children of poverty,” Brown said. “Because the sky is the limit when it comes to how far our students can go."

Another topic dominating conversation was the need for more funding. The Pee Dee Math Science and Technology Academy operates fully out of portable units and the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science saying they need new facilities and affordable housing for teachers. Many of the school leaders addressed the need for transportation funding that isn’t currently provided.

The next hearing has not yet been set.

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