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Monday
Mar102014

NH Charter School Legislative Update 

In this issue

Examining the Need for HB 435


In 2009-10 the state legislature overhauled the education funding formula (SB539) for New Hampshire public schools, including public charter schools. The legislative intent of SB539 was to provide public charters with permanent sustainable funding. Public charters were woven into the fabric of public education funding receiving $3,450 per pupil in state adequacy aid plus $2,000 per pupil in disparity aid because charters do not receive local tax dollars.

 

Since that time charter school funding has remained flat however their costs have not. HB435 as amended would restore the legislative intent of SB539 by bringing public charter funding back to the percentage of the state average as originally intended.

 

How is HB435 Funded? 

There is currently a surplus sufficient to pay for HB435 in the current charter school line item of the state budget. No new money is needed. Future monies will come from the decline in adequacy needed due to the decline in total public student enrollment. State adequacy will not increase from existing levels according to figures prepared for Representative Weyler by the LBO. Adequacy costs will actually decrease in the future with surpluses projected at $6m and $11.8m in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Public Education Funding & Context


When discussing funding context is important. As you can see by the chart above, public charter school students represent only about 2% of total state adequacy aid. The vast majority of funding (about 98% or $936 million) goes directly to our traditional public schools. District schools do the incredibly difficult work of addressing the needs of the vast majority of students. Children are not widgets however and even in the best schools there will be some students whose needs are not met. Public charter schools complement our district system by providing a public education option for students who require a unique learning environment, curriculum, or instructional method.

Dispelling Common Myths & Misconceptions

The New Hampshire Public Charter School Association has put together a helpful document that addresses many of the common myths and misconceptions about public charter schools in New Hampshire. You can read the document by clicking here.

Charter school bills moving through the House
HB1128 would create a committee to study issues related to special education in public charter schools. In testimony before the House Education Committee, some supporters of the bill asserted that public charter schools or the state should be responsible for special education costs and not the resident district. These same supporters consistently oppose any suggestion that public charter schools should receive local tax dollars or that the money should follow the child. This position would seem irrational and more likely designed to either bankrupt public charter schools or disenfranchise students with special needs.

     

HB1392 would remove the restriction (10% rule) on the number of students that can transfer to a public charter school from each grade in a single year. In practice the 10% rule only serves to discourage small population centers from opening charters in the North and has little or no impact on the more densely populated areas in the South.

 

HB1393 would address a situation that occurs when a resident district does not operate
a full time elementary or secondary school. In these cases the district tuitions out resident pupils to a nearby district. HB1393 would require that "should" a resident pupil elect to attend a charter school operating within the district, that the district pay to the charter school the tuition which would have been paid to another district for the pupil, minus the amount of funds received by the charter school from the state ($5,498). 

Example
"District-A" does not operate an elementary school of its own. District-A signs an agreement with "District-B" to provide services for District-A's students at a rate of $12,000 per pupil. HB1393 would require that if a student elects to attend a public charter school operating in the district instead, that District-A pay the difference of ($12,000 - $5,498) or $6,502 to the charter school. This would result in a savings to the local tax payer of $5,498 for every student that attends the charter school instead of District-B.

Some groups like the NH-NEA and the NH School Boards Association oppose this common sense measure. The NHSBA writes on its website that HB1393 "ignores local control". This begs the question, local control to do what? Force local taxpayers to pay potentially thousands of dollars more per pupil than they would if the child attended a public charter school in the district?

HB1449 would change the charter school approval process by requiring that "the educational mission statement shall count for not less than 50 percent in the criteria for evaluating a chartered public school application". HB1449 would thus devalue much more important factors including: Budget and Financial Management, Curriculum, Academic Goals and Serving Students with Special Needs. While a mission statement is indeed important, it is much more important to properly evaluate the many factors which would result in the creation of a high-quality public school.

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