Charter schools approved by NC voters


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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- A new poll shows North Carolina voters are in favor of charter schools as two schools open their doors in Guilford County and the state approves two more for the Piedmont Triad.

The "North Carolina K-12 & School Choice Survey" poll was released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and the Civitas Institute. It notes 65 percent of state voters support charter schools, versus 15 percent opposed to the publicly-funded schools.

Meanwhile, it's been a month since two of the area's newest charter schools opened their doors. Cornerstone Academy in Guilford County and The Point in High Point are attracting students from as far as Whitsett and Winston-Salem.

"We just don't believe that education is one-size fits all and that parents need a choice. They need an option in their child's education," said Dr. Michelle Johnson, The Point's leader. "And children need to be able to learn in an environment that best suits them -- Whether it's small... Whether there's a particular mission."

Charter schools are funded by local, state and federal dollars and have no religious affiliation. Students apply to attend the schools, but they are tuition-free. The Point recently became the first North Carolina charter school to receive a grant from Partners for Developing Futures.

North Carolina lifted it's 100-school cap on charters in 2011. To date, about 40 charters exist in the state. Earlier in Sept., state officials approved 17 charter schools set to open in 2013, including two in the Triad -- the North Carolina Leadership Academy in Forsyth County and the Summerfield Charter Academy in Guilford County.

The Point is temporarily housed in a church off Eastchester Drive, but will move to its permanent location on Kivett Drive in 2013. It currently serves 180 K-4 students, although its been approved for K-12. The school will add grade levels by the end of academic year.  Its student population is currently 97 percent minority with most of the students being African-American males.

While The Point is a college-prep academy, charter schools differ in mission and demographics.

"We start in kindergarten," Johnson said. "We start with financial empowerment workshops for parents with understanding where your child is going to go, understanding it's going to take some years to prepare a child for college, especially financially, academically -- that's important."

Johnson and other school leaders said they're not trying to compete with public schools, but rather want to offer an alternative.

"It's not that there are so many bad teachers in public schools, it's just that school ends at 3 p.m. and we have bigger needs than that," said State Rep. Marcus Brandon, who is on the The Point's board.

Johnson said her staff keeps a daily reminder of the task at-hand -- a letter written by a student earlier in the year -- on their desks.

"He was saying, 'I'm no good, all I know is games. I'm trash...' And the very last thing he said is, 'I like this place,'" Johnson said. "And so we keep that. I gave it to all the staff. We put it on our desks and I tell them, 'Remember why you're here.'"

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