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Charter school legislation poses big questions for the State

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It’s time for a more extensive debate of the role of public charter schools in New Hampshire.  The Legislature has nibbled at the issue every few years since 1995, approving a 10 school pilot program at one point, then expanding it to 20, then suspending approvals for two years and currently being in an uncertain posture.  There are four charter bills pending in the House Education Committee right now that really should not be addressed ad hoc, but in the context of an explicit charter school policy.

Two are about money:

HB 299 appropriates open ended funding to charters.  As many charters as the state Board of Education approves, the Legislature would fund from the General Fund and Education Trust Fund.

HB 435 increases per student funding each charter school would get.  Currently, charters get $5,450/student.  This is part of the state’s adequacy funding that goes to each district for every child in the state.  However, charters get more per student than the school districts get.  This bill would further increase that per student funding and would tie it to the statewide average cost of educating a student, so charter funding per student would increase (or decrease) each year with the total cost of education in New Hampshire.

There is one bill apparently aimed at narrowing the latitude of the state Board of Education in approving charter applications:

HB 424 says that the state board must identify all of the problems it sees with a charter application at one time.  Rep. Boehm, testifying on his bill, said that that provision was a response to the board’s recent denial of applications based on lack of funding.  He said that the board should have identified everything wrong with those applications, including issues in addition to funding.  The bill also makes other changes which appear to require the board to approve more of the applications they get.

And there is one bill that requires a fuller description of charter school board structure and policies.

HB 243 requires a charter public school applicant to include information relating to the board of trustees in its application.  This bill requires additional useful information on the charter school application and does not present policy issues

The first three of these bills are the ones that present major policy issues for the State.  What is to be the role of charter schools in New Hampshire?  How much do we intend to spend to make charters available?

Here are some basics about charters.  Here is some background on how we came to this juncture on the charter question.   And here are some of the questions I would think we would want to answer before establishing many more charter schools.

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