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Charter funding is growing quickly
Pending in the New Hampshire Legislature right now are four charter bills that would significantly increase charter school enrollment and general fund appropriations. Taken together, these bills highlight a possible transition in New Hampshire charter school policy.
The primary objective DOE gives for the New Hampshire charter program is to serve “educationally disadvantaged students most at risk.” But, as charter enrollment has been doubling every three years and expenditures have ballooned from $3.5 in 2009 to and estimated $22,7 million in 2015, the role of New Hampshire’s charters has shifted.
HB 435 and the other pending charter bills represent a significant increase in New Hampshire’s already escalating charter school expenditures.
Charter enrollment and expenditures are growing quickly
Here’s a chart showing enrollment and expenditures since 2007, projected out to 2019. Enrollment is projected at current growth rates. Expenditures are projected based on HB 435.
Charter school enrollment in New Hampshire has been doubling every three years. In 2009, leaving aside the Virtual Learning Charter School (VLACS), we had 585 charter students in New Hampshire, most in charters aimed at helping at-risk children. This school year, we have about 1,977 charter students, the great majority of whom attend high end charters. Next year, NHDOE estimates that enrollment will be 2,884. None of the four new charters starting up next September or the 10 charters in the application pipeline will focus on at-risk students.
“Not more than 10 percent of the resident pupils in any grade shall be eligible to transfer to a chartered public school in any school year without the approval of the local school board.”
And HB 1393 requires school districts to pay charter schools a portion of the tuition under certain circumstances.
Taken together, the two bills promote accelerated growth of charter enrollments by enabling large scale replacement of district schools by charter schools as seen in recent years in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and other cities.
Here is Rep. Weyler’s testimony about HB 1392. He does not really give a reason for wanting to remove the 10% limit on annual transfers. He does make a couple of points, though.
The charter subcommittee of the House Education Committee will meet for a work session tomorrow at 10:00 AM in Room 207 of the Legislative Office Building. (more…)
New Hampshire has authorized 18 charter schools over the past 20 years but has really never arrived at a settled charter school policy. Right now there are four charter school bills pending in the House Education Committee and several fully developed charter applications awaiting legislative action before they can proceed. New Hampshire needs to replace its ad hoc approach to charters with a real and the leadership that could do it is in place now. Maybe it would be possible to provide the funding needed for the immediate pending charter applications but then step back and take the time needed to think through the role of charters in New Hampshire.
Here are some of the policy questions that seem to need answers.
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.
In the piece below, Danielle Curtis discusses Rep. Boehm’s HB 299 to facilitate charter funding and also says that the Wyler bill aimed at increasing funding was not filed, but it looks to me as if it has now been filed as HB 435.
It is worth noting that Rep. Boehm is not correct when he says that charter funding “should not be a financial burden for the state because education aid in New Hampshire follows the student. If a student leaves one school to attend a charter school, he said, the student’s per pupil aid amount is not a new cost, it is simply shifted to the new school.” Charters get more per student than the traditional public schools (in the range of $2,000 more) and Rep. Wyler’s bill seeks to increase that amount further.
It will be important to track these bills. Go to the linked pages to see the hearing dates.
By DANIELLE CURTIS
CONCORD – A bill to revert charter school spending practices back to those in place before 2010 is officially moving forward, but it likely won’t mean an earlier end to the moratorium on new charter schools.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Ralph Boehm, R-Litchfield, and two other members of the House Education Committee. The bill, which was filed earlier this month, would permit the state to approve as many charter schools as it wants each year and ensure state funding would be available.
“Charter schools can’t be played around like they were,” Boehm said. “This sort of fixes the problem and puts the law back the way it was when (funding) wasn’t an issue.”