- On Friday the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee voted along party lines to reject $10.1 million, the first-year portion, of the $46 million federal grant intended to expand and replicate successful chartered public schools to support at-risk students.
Students from several charter public school packed the committee room and flooded the hallway.
In August the grant was announced; New Hampshire was awarded the largest grant of the three states to receive one as part of the federal Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program.
All of New Hampshire’s charter schools are non-profits and part of the public-school system. They do not charge tuition, have non-discrimination enrollment, and are part of a Free and Appropriate Public Education for students with special needs, but are not restricted by zip codes.
As of the 2018-2019 school year, there are 3,932 students enrolled in NH’s charter schools. Many other children are on wait-lists for charters that must limit enrollment if there are no available spots for those grade levels. There are schools like Mills Falls Charter School in Manchester that has 168 students, but has a wait-list of over 500 children. The Academy for Science and Design Charter School in Nashua, a National Blue Ribbon award-winning school, has 532 students and a wait-list of over 100 children.
Clearly, families want more educational opportunities within our public-school system.
Commissioner Frank Edelblut said that the state’s declining public-school enrollment requires schools to offer more flexible learning opportunities and be innovative; this is a strength for chartered public schools that may have different pedagogies, such as a focus on a Montessori approach, STEM, or a fine-arts integrated curricula.
In a statement issued by the state Department of Education, Commissioner Edelblut said,
Families of means can make these choices any time they want. This grant was meant to give economically-disadvantaged students and at-risk students those same choices. I am disappointed that partisanship on the part of the Fiscal Committee continues to block this grant. If you care about children and if you care about New Hampshire taxpayers, you would approve this grant.
The next steps are unclear, but the Commissioner indicated he is in discussions with the US Department of Education.