Yesterday, the House Finance Committee “retained” HB 299, the bill that would provide open-ended funding for New Hampshire charter schools. Charlie Arlinghaus of the Bartlett Center (which sees New Hampshire charters as part of the “school choice” movement away from public schools) wrote an angry column in today’s Union Leader saying the charters should get their funding. But the committee action was reasonable.
HB 299 is one of four charter school bills this year. The House Education Committee has retained the three others and formed a subcommittee to review the performance and future role of charters in the State. This is just the right action. Now that the first group of twenty (18, soon to be 22) charters has been authorized, it is time to review and clarify the role of charter schools in New Hampshire.
A decision about how and how much to fund charters is an integral part of the budget process and really did not need to be a separate bill in the first place. Mr. Arlinghaus decries the reference to political trade-offs, but there will have to be trade-offs in this year’s very tight budget. The governor proposed paying for charters partly by repealing the voucher tax credit. Republicans have proposed reducing adequacy funding to school districts to pay for charters. These are wide-ranging alternatives and clearly a matter for negotiation with Senate when the time come.