Last week the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to reinstate Governor Hassan's request for public charter school funding. This move will save the state over $5.5 million in federal funds and protect the new schools that just opened last year. At a time when many are frustrated with a broken political system in Washington, New Hampshire residents can be proud that public education is seen as a bipartisan issue in the state.
Without the Senates support, the risk of losing the federal grant is real. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, New Hampshire is one of only a few states with an active federal grant. The U.S. DOE has been unable to award any new state grants since 2011, due to lack of funding. There are now 25 states that have charter school laws, but no federal funding.
The atmosphere at the hearing was collegial, non-partisan and serious. Senators from both parties voiced concerns that many of the provisions included in HB2 (as passed by the House) would harm public charter schools and risk millions in federal grant funds. Testimony by the Department of Education at two separate hearings confirmed these risks.
Senate Finance took a thoughtful approach by requesting that the policy committee vet the proposed changes in HB2 and report back their findings. The Senate Education Committee then held a public hearing on the proposed changes in HB2 and heard testimony from the NH Department of Education. A strong bipartisan consensus emerged and Chairman Nancy Stiles reported the committee's findings to Senate Finance. After some discussion the committee voted unanimously to support Senate Education's recommendations.
Since the senate's decision last week, our office has received hundreds of emails and phone calls from parents, charter school supporters and applicants wanting to know more. There are too many to publish however with their permission, I have included some responses below. A common concern in almost every letter that I read is the desire that our legislators work together to provide options for all children.
The Center joins "The Facebook"
If you haven't heard already the Center recently joined the world of social media on the inter-web. Check out our Facebook page for updates on all things charter schools.