Chartered Public Schools are Jeopardized

In a blatantly partisan 7 to 3 vote on November 8th, the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee voted to table a $46 million federal grant awarded to New Hampshire to support 20 new chartered public schools focused on at-risk and educationally disadvantaged students. The grant would allow successful models to expand or replicate, and bring more educational opportunities where families need more options for their children.

The Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee meets again on Friday, December 13th at 10:00am in the Legislative Office Building, room 210-211. If they chose to revisit the federal grant, the decision needs a ⅔ vote to take the grant off the table for any further consideration. Below is the contact information for the committee members.

All of New Hampshire’s 29 charter schools are non-profit public schools. As such, they must accept students on a non-discriminatory basis, only limited by available seats. They are not restricted by zip codes and may use different educational approaches and pedagogies. New Hampshire has various types of charter schools, including Montessori, STEM, fine-arts, ones that support at-risk students, and more.

While chartered public schools receive $7,188 per pupil from the state, local district schools cost taxpayers more than double that, on average $15,865.26 per pupil. If all expenditures are considered – operating, tuition, transportation, equipment, construction, interest and non-K-12 expenditures – the average cost per pupil at local districts schools is $18,991.10.

Students at our chartered public schools scored higher across grade levels and subjects on the 2019 statewide assessments given to all public-school students.

As of the 2018-2019 school year, there are 3,932 students enrolled in chartered public schools across the Granite State. There are schools like Mills Falls Charter School in Manchester that has 168 students, but has a wait-list of over 500 children. The Academy for Science and Design Charter School in Nashua, a National Blue Ribbon award-winning school, has 532 students and a wait-list of over 100 children.

Clearly, families want more educational opportunities within our public-school system.

New Hampshire was one of only three states to be awarded a grant from the federal Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program. It would give the state $10.1 million in the first year of the grant with the rest of the funds disbursed over the following four years.

The grant is only available for chartered public schools; it cannot be redirected to local district schools.

At a charter school presentation last month, Commissioner Frank Edelblut mentioned that public schools can sponsor charter schools, as was done for the North Country Charter Academy. In that situation, several superintendents recognized that a significant portion of their student population had different learning needs and they wanted to create a different learning environment to support them.

In a statement released by the Department of Education, Commissioner Edelblut said, “This grant would build on that success by giving both public charter and traditional district schools a chance to try new ways to reach students most at risk.”

Families and school leaders across the state are upset with the committee’s vote.

The committee vote is a grave disappointment and a disservice to children who need a different educational fit from what is available at their local public school.

A mother of five children and state representative, Dr. Becky Owens, said the following:

Charter schools are not trying to replace public schools as many have accused them of, but provide an alternative for those that do not fit the mold, and the current educational system cannot support. The success of the student should be the main concern, not the success of the school.

Kelli Twiss with the Granite State Arts Academy shared these remarks:

US DOE: Here, NH. We would like to give you $46 million to expand charter schools and improve outcomes for disadvantaged students.

NH: No, thanks.

Does that seem ridiculous? Well, that is exactly what some people in NH said, “no, thank you” to providing much needed options for students who otherwise may not graduate high school at all. No thanks to giving kids that are not thriving in their district school an alternative path to success. No, thank you. Thanks, but no thanks. We feel all kids are the same and should just suck it up and go to the school they are assigned to based on zip code.”

Stacy Johnson and Kelly Gordon with the Seacoast Charter School published a letter in the Concord Monitor.

We and our colleagues have taught in traditional public schools and at private schools, and we would never say anything negative about the way another school operates. The work we do, and the work done by teachers in every type of school across the state, is too important to pit people against each other. We believe everyone in education should support one another.

We also believe that students benefit when they have multiple public schools to choose from. Since every child is different, doesn’t it make sense that we need different types of schools to meet the needs of every student?

Children have only one opportunity for their K-12 education. If we focus on children, not which public school they attend, then the committee should support all of our public-school students and approve this grant.


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Read more about the grant and the Fiscal Committee’s vote at Politicizing Public Education. Learn more about various educational options, including our chartered public schools, at our FAQ and Map page.