By Sarah Downey | The Center Square
The disposition of a $46 million federal grant to fund public charter schools has been tabled by New Hampshire legislators.
The decision came after the Legislative Fiscal Committee denied a request to move forward on the first $10 million installment, saying it needed more time to study how the funds would be allocated.
Charter schools – independently operated public schools that work according to an authorized contract or charter – have grown in popularity in recent years. The system can provide parents of public-school students more choice in how their child is educated.
“Democratic leadership should be ashamed of themselves for turning their backs on New Hampshire’s students,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a news release. “This game-changing grant would have cost New Hampshire taxpayers nothing and would have supported public charter schools across the state. It is clear that Democrats would rather see these innovative, public-school programs fail rather than support our successful system. It is a sad day for New Hampshire when improving educational outcomes becomes a political issue for Democrat-leadership.”
The $46 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation & Improvement was the largest in the country; the next highest amount was $25 million to Alabama.
In a statement after the vote, posted on the New Hampshire Public Radio website, state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, said, “These grant dollars do not come without strings attached – they require investments from the state not accounted for in the current two-year budget and pose unanticipated costs to municipalities, including transportation costs for in-district busing. It is prudent legislators weigh this decision carefully while looking at the full education landscape in New Hampshire.”
When legislators will resume talks on the issue is unclear.
In a story posted on Patch.com, New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said, “For the past five years, public charter schools have consistently outperformed traditional public schools in New Hampshire, despite receiving less taxpayer funding and often serving an at-risk student population.”
There are currently 28 charter schools in New Hampshire, according to the New Hampshire Board of Education.
“This grant would build on that success by giving both public charter and traditional district schools a chance to try new ways to reach students most at risk. We should focus on students, rather than defending the status quo,” Edelblut added.