NH Charter School Legislative Update

In this issue
Oversight Hearing on HB435 Enrollment Projections

The Charter Schools and Open Enrollment Legislative Oversight Committee held a hearing this week to examine some questionable enrollment projections created by the Department last January. The enrollment projections conflict with the official fiscal note attached to HB435 but more importantly they were used by charter school opponents to mount a vicious and highly effective misinformation campaign against HB435.


Deputy Commissioner Leather represented the Department at the hearing. Deputy Leather confirmed that the document in question was created by the Department however he stated that, "the document was not meant to be an addendum to the fiscal note". Naturally this leads one to ask, how did these inflated projections end up in the hands of charter school opponents? And why were they NOT shared with the bill's prime sponsor, Representative Ken Weyler? Representative Weyler had some very stern words for Deputy Leather and the Department on this issue.


Committee Audio Outtakes

Click here to listen to a fascinating line of questioning by Representative John Hunt (of Rep. Susan Ford) starting at 1:15. It sounds like the bill was scuttled in part so that opponents can hold increased funding hostage until after the next election. This would allow opponents to use the issue to try and gain concessions during budget negotiations next year. This is similar to Rep. Eaton's famous video discussing using charters as a "trump card" back in 2013.


Click here to listen to Senator Sanborn's line of questioning. Two important points are made. 1. The money to pay for HB435 was available in the charter school line item of the budget and 2. Opponents don't want to answer whether or not charter schools should receive additional funding until after they see if they win the next election. Note: At 35 seconds Rep. Ford appears to mistakenly claim that HB435 as amended, would not have increased funding until the next biennium, that is not the case.


Media Reports from the Hearing

Click here to read Dave Solomon's article in the UL

Click here to read a story from the AP

Funding, Context and Politics

At the heart of the debate it's not really about the money, charters represent only about 2% of public school enrollment. The real issue is one of control, politics and ideology. Do you believe that children deserve choices in public education or not? Do you believe that modest competition can raise the bar for all children or not? Do you believe that a system which is inherently monopolistic can serve children best or not? Do you believe that unions and special interest groups have your child's best interests at heart or not? 


Click on the following links and search for "charter" for examples of common rhetoric. AFT-NH, NEA-NH, NHSBA.

House Sends Two Anti-Charter Bills to Senate

The House has sent two more bills to the Senate which aim to block future charter school authorizations and increase regulation on public charter schools. The first bill, HB1449 would change the authorization process and create a shameful but effective choke point to approval. The second bill, HB1141 would single out public charter schools for new regulations but omit other public schools.


This seems to be a pattern these days as the House Majority continues to claim that they support public charter schools while simultaneously passing bills that would damage the program and harm children. Readers will remember that last session the House stuffed HB2 full of anti-charter provisions, including a new moratorium. Thankfully the state Senate rejected those games and took a stand for all public schools.


At the end of the day these tactics only serve to harm:

  • The roughly 3,000 (or 2%) of children in the state that attend a "different kind" of public school
  • Students at the seven charter high schools for at-risk youth. These students have a combined average of 30% Free and Reduced Lunch Eligibility (higher than the state average)
  • The students of the state's most rural charter elementary school with a Free and Reduced Lunch population over 34%
  • Students at the only two public choice options North of Concord
  • Students at the only public charter school dedicated to the STEM sciences
  • The parents of children that have searched for years to find a public program that works for their child
  • The staff members who forgo higher pay and benefits at a traditional school in order to provide a public alternative for students that need or desire it

Source: www.education.nh.gov/data/documents/lunch_school13_14.xls  

Why is HB1449 Bad?
Because it is just another moratorium by another name. The charter school application currently contains 30 different components. After an application is submitted it is graded using 12 standardized criteria totaling 100 possible points. HB1449 redistributes these points in an illogical and frankly shameful attempt to block new schools. How does it do this?
  1. It increases the value of 1 criterion (the mission statement), to 50 points (out of 100).

  2. It thus devalues much more important criteria including; academic and learning goals, the ability to serve student needs, curriculum, founder qualifications, governance, and financial sustainability.

  3. This creates an effective choke point whereby you can deny a charter school application on the basis of 1 criterion alone.

  4. HB1449 would also allow the SBE to block charter authorizations based on geographic location.

Ask yourself this question:
If as the bill's supporters claim, they truly support public charter schools, which is more important? The 2 or 3 sentence mission statement contained within the application or the bricks and mortar that create the foundation for a strong public school?
The answer seems obvious.
Why is HB1141 bad?

HB1141 would single out public charter schools by requiring them to notify and submit contact information to the Superintendent of a child's resident district within 7 days of enrollment.


Currently when a child enrolls in a public charter school, the charter school contacts the student's current school and requests the student's records. This is the same process that traditional public schools use and it serves to notify the district.


HB1141 would require that charters also contact the Superintendent's office and give them contact information for the child's parents. This not only increases regulation but puts in place a procedure that makes it easy to retaliate against parents that choose a choice option.