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Southeast Raleigh Charter School ‘PAVES’ the Way, Exemplifies Continuing NC Trend

Earlier this year a critical report of our state’s charter schools was released by the state Department of Public Instruction. Before the Board of Education could review the report’s contents, it was pulled by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest – a move that was supported by the Board’s chairman, Bill Cobey. The Lt. Gov. cited intense negativity as the primary reason behind shelving the report.

wfcaThe report’s contents painted North Carolina’s charter schools as whiter and wealthier than the student bodies at traditional public schools in the state. For years, critics of charter schools have protested that charters divert funding from traditional public schools and are not accessible to everyone. However, one particular southeast Raleigh charter is hoping to silence some of those critics.

PAVE, an acronym for Perseverance, Achievement, Vibrance and Excellent character, is a charter school of mostly minority and low-income students located in southeast Raleigh. PAVE Charter is unique relative to traditional charter schools in that it offers free transportation and reduced-price lunches to students; two perks that have boosted PAVE’s popularity and forced the school to request approval from the state’s Board of Education to nearly double its enrollment. For our readers who are not familiar with how charter schools work – they receive public funding, but are exempt from some requirements that public schools must follow, such as transportation, the state teacher pay scale and participation in subsidized meal programs.

The increasing appeal of charter schools is one of the only characteristics of PAVE that isn’t unique. In 2011, the state of North Carolina lifted the longtime 100 school cap on charter schools. Since that time student enrollments have doubled from 41,000 in 2011 to 82,000 in the fall of 2015. Traditional public schools were expected to add roughly 3,700 students. Currently, there are 158 charter schools in operation. Five charter schools currently operate in Wake Forest alone, with a sixth school on the way after just recently receiving approval from the town.

Supporters of the state’s action to lift the 100 school cap believe it has resulted in easier access to quality education catered to lower income and minority students, such as the students that attend PAVE. Another example of a charter with a similar mission and student body is Henderson Collegiate in Henderson, NC, which was one of 69 public schools to receive an A-plus performance grade.

Some parents who choose to send their children to charter schools see it as taking a greater responsibility for their children’s education. Depending on the situation and the child, in many cases it has proved beneficial. Other parents are more critical of the system, citing worries of segregation and lack of diversity. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on one fact remains, charter schools are gaining in popularity by the day.

PAVE currently only serves kindergarteners and first-graders, but has plans to eventually offer K through 12. Enrollment applications for this school year were well beyond PAVE’s available slots. As a result, the school is quickly outgrowing its current space on South Wilmington St. in Raleigh. After the recent approval PAVE received from the state to increase enrollment, a larger long-term facility will be in the school’s future and likely the futures of many of the other charters popping up all over the state.

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