Here’s what Governor Hassan said about charter schools in her budget address yesterday:
“…this budget will help encourage innovation by providing funding to allow new charter schools to open and to allow existing charter schools to accept new enrollees.
“At the same time, these charter schools have a responsibility to live within their budget, and so this budget sets new parameters and provides authority for the Department of Education to prioritize new charter school approval to underserved communities.”
Senate Health, Education & Human Services Chair Nancy Stiles (R, Hampton) talks about charters in the same way – focused missions, focused geography. House Education Committee Chair Mary Gile (D, Concord) says the same kinds of things. She talks about charters supplementing the work of public schools.
And that’s been our vision in New Hampshire all along. The key purpose of the charter statute is to:
“Encourage the establishment of public charter schools with specific or focused curriculum, instruction, methods, or target pupil groups”
The Department of Education and the Board of Education have been following that mandate. Look down this list of approved charters and you see charters focused on very specific missions that fill needs in our public education system.
There certainly are Republican legislators who see charters as a “school choice” issue and would like to promote charters as a wholesale alternative to traditional public schools. And there are Democrats who oppose charters – partly, at least, because of the threat that vision poses to public education. However, in our slow, step-at-a-time fashion, we have constructed a conservative charter program in the New Hampshire way.
If all this is true, why the kerfuffle over charter funding last year? Instead of getting exercised about the injustice of it all, advocates should chalk that up to legislative error an move on.
There is work to do. We should re-clarify our charter policy and reflect that in legislation. And we should fund the new charters with money saved elsewhere. But we can do that. New Hampshire has about as much of a consensus on charters as you can imagine on any issue.