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Hassan Early College Academy proposal resurfaces as Governor Sununu’s key education initiative, with a key change

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Governor Sununu’s “New Hampshire Career Academy” has become his most visible State of the State proposal.  Coverage includes this on WMUR, this AP report on the NHPR website and in many other state papers, Sunday’s front page piece in the Union Leader and surely more to come. New Hampshire high school students would get community college credits and a leg up on a job while still in high school – and even get an associates degree by continuing with the program for a fifth year.  Here is the department of education’s summary.  Here is Governor Hassan’s 2015 STEM Task Force recommendation (p. 28).

There could be issues, though, with the governor’s proposal for how to fund the new program.  The idea is that the Academy would be a charter school approved by the state board of education, enabling the program to tap into the $7,300 per student state charter school funding stream.

The most obvious question is whether the Academy can actually qualify as a charter school.  It will apparently have no teachers or buildings.  Students will attend community college courses or high school courses led by qualified teachers.

This is great stuff, modeled on the great Rochester program, a creative collaboration among Rochester businesses and educators, led by Dean Graziano, the extended learning opportunity coordinator for the Rochester School District. But, as the department writeup makes clear, the charter structure is strictly a funding mechanism.  There will be complexities to be sorted out if it is to actually function as a charter school.  Can school districts keep a student enrolled and pay charter school tuitions?  Will admissions processes conform with charter school requirements?

There will be many elements of the state and federal charter statutes for the SBOE to consider.  But the concept drew wide support 4 years ago and the viability has been demonstrated with great savvy and results in Rochester.


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