Here is a very straight-forward and factual response to a misguided ideological letter to the Monitor a few days ago:
The letter to the editor titled “Anti-education Democrats” (Monitor, April 5) was misdirected.
The state budget passed by the New Hampshire House last week restored funding to higher education and community colleges and maintained current levels of funding for both public schools and public charter schools. It recognized the value of education for New Hampshire students from kindergarten through post-secondary education. And it addressed the devastating cuts to education that came as a result of the 2010-12 Republican-led Legislature; it was opposed by the Republican caucus.
Unlike other states where charter schools have opened and failed because of poor state oversight and mismanagement, New Hampshire has taken a prudent approach. There are 17 authorized public charter schools, and there is a clear process of developing and granting a charter. Funding limits have been created by the Legislature. The state Board of Education and the Department of Education have oversight authority ensuring that charter schools implement their missions and stated visions. The quality of these charters is a direct result of that process.
During the House budget debate last week, there were Republican amendments to the budget that would have eliminated any oversight and accountability for charters by the state Board of Education and the Department of Education. Other amendments would have opened the education trust fund coffers to the funding of any charter, regardless of the balance in the fund and the ultimate cost of the charter school.
We can appreciate the frustration of public charter school advocates wishing to open additional charter schools. However, there are real budget constraints as we attempt to balance the state’s multiple needs and services. We have a solid approach to granting and renewing public charter schools. This approach has provided quality charter schools that will not suffer the same fate of so many others across the nation. Accountability and fiscal oversight have made New Hampshire charter schools quality learning places for students.
Finally, the letter criticized the lack of support for the education tax credit program that would provide vouchers to support students attending private or religious schools, and assist in the cost of home-schooling. Authorized by the previous Legislature, the voucher program would divert millions of dollars from both public schools and public charter schools. Money would go to and be coordinated by an organization from California that has a stated goal of dismantling public education. The amount of the voucher would in no way allow a “low-income” family to afford a private school.
The House Education and Finance committees both have created study committees that in the next several months will review the charter-school governance, funding and application process. It has been five years since there has been such a study.
We need to ensure that there are multiple opportunities for students to find their best learning pathway. Clearly, both Democrats and Republicans want the best for our students.
(Rep. Mary Stuart Gile of Concord is chairwoman of the House Education Committee. Rep. Mel Myler of Hopkinton is chairman of the House Education Charter School Study Committee.)