Ann Doss Helms, WFAE, November 30, 2020
Four charter schools are up for state approval this week to use weighted admission lotteries for 2021, setting aside spots to improve diversity. They include American Renaissance School in Statesville and Lincoln Charter School, with two campuses in Lincoln County.
Both schools will create a lottery advantage for low-income students.
State approval of the four new schools will mean 36 of North Carolina’s 200 charter schools will give diversity-based preferences in this winter’s admission process. The state is offering $37 million in ACCESS grants to encourage this process.
Lincoln Charter, with 2,200 K-12 students, is one of the state’s largest charter schools. It sends buses into neighborhoods in Lincoln, Mecklenburg and Gaston counties.
Chief Administrator Jonathan Bryant says his two schools are majority white, with about 19% of students coming from low-income homes.
“I think that diversity is part of a quality education experience. And so this is a way for us to intentionally diversify in a way,” Bryant said Monday.
Charter schools are publicly funded schools that report to independent boards, rather than local school districts. When applicants outnumber available seats, charter schools must use admission lotteries.
The federally-funded ACCESS program offers grants to charter schools willing to make changes to increase the number of educationally disadvantaged students they serve. Often that means giving preference to families who self-identify as low-income, but for charter schools that already have high poverty levels it can mean admitting more students with limited English proficiency or disabilities.
American Renaissance, a K-8 school, plans to provide a weighted preference for low-income students, aiming to have 15% of students come from economically disadvantaged homes. It is also adding transportation next year.