As charter high schools grow in number and enrollment in North Carolina, so does the need for a closer look at whether and on what basis they should be allowed to compete with traditional public high schools.

North Carolina’s charters are public schools, funded by taxpayers and promoted as open to all. They are privately run by non-profit boards and some have been criticized for aggressively screening and being selective in the students they accept.

North Carolina, in fact, is among states that let charter schools give admissions preference to students who demonstrate interest in a charter school’s particular educational focus.

Charter schools in North Carolina don’t appear to have the normal checks and balances on athletic transfers because they can accept students who want to attend for purely athletic reasons regardless of local elected school board policies against such transfers and regardless of with “whom” or “where” the student actually lives.

It’s a system that some charter school officials are bound to take advantage of to make their athletic programs more competitive.

N.C. Policy Watch, a media project of the liberal-leaning N.C. Justice Center, claimed that it found where this was blatantly occurring at a charter school in Winston-Salem called Quality Education Academy.

Several out-of-state students who attended Quality Education Academy played on the school’s basketball team and ended up signing to play basketball at Division 1 colleges.

According to N.C. Policy Watch, N.C. School Superintendent June Atkinson said charter schools have to accept students from North Carolina but state laws governing charter schools don’t say if that means the schools are open to only North Carolina residents.

Urban charter schools have had a strong presence in final rounds of the state playoffs of several 1A sports, particularly men’s and women’s soccer and tennis. Private school teams have had this presence for much longer.

The ability of urban charter high schools to draw students from broad geographical areas and questions regarding admission practices raise concerns about fairness, particularly for rural 1A high schools like East Wilkes and Alleghany (although both have competed well against considerably larger schools lately).

One suggestion that merits consideration is letting charter and traditional public schools play against each other in regular season contests but not in the state playoffs.

Charter schools would have their own playoff games, which possibly could also include private school teams.

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