NH Charter School funding: Myths, facts and HB 563

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Academy for Science and Design.
Academy for Science and Design.

Editor’s Note: Anticipated vote on this was pushed back from March 11

MANCHESTER, NH – On March 12 legislators are expected to vote on HB 563, which if approved would increase funding for charter schools in New Hampshire. The text of the bill is included below, along with accompanying charts that show the proposed increases.

There are currently 25 approved charter schools in New Hampshire (complete list here).

You can click here to see the State Board of Education cost per pupil by district for 2013-2014. State average cost per pupil:

Elementary: $14,200.30

Middle School: $13,320.82

High School: $14,109.48

Total (preschool -12) $14,001.08

As a point of reference, numbers for the city of Manchester are:

Elementary:$10,600.26

Middle School: $10,780.51

High School: $10,473.56

Total (preschool-12) $10,596.16

Local charter schools like Mill Falls Charter School in Manchester and the Academy for Science and Design in Nashua are rallying supporters to show up in force at the state house in Concord.

MIll Falls ribbon cutting in 2012.
MIll Falls ribbon cutting in 2012.

According to Meryl Levin, a founding board member for Mill Falls Charter School, there are a lot of myths and misinformation surrounding charter schools and how they are funded. Levin has provided the following Q&A which is meant to help distill fact from fiction:

Myth: Charter schools are private schools.

Charter schools are public schools.  They cannot charge tuition or select students.  They are held accountable educationally and fiscally by the state. They do not have special entrance requirements are not religious and cannot discriminate against students on any basis.

Myth: Public charter schools take money from local district public schools.

Charter schools receive all of their funding directly from the state. This has very little impact on local school districts since the local tax dollars do not follow the child to the public charter school but remain with the public district school.

Myth: Public charter schools are in competition with local district schools.

Public charter schools are a symbiotic complement to district public schools. District schools do the incredibly difficult work of addressing the needs of the vast majority of students and often very well. But research clearly shows that not all students learn in the same way or thrive with one singular approach. This is where charter schools fit in. Charters provide a free and open public option for students offering unique learning environments and/or instructional methods.

Myth: Public charter schools are not held financially accountable.

Since public charter schools are funded with public dollars, they are required by law to be held accountable for how taxpayer dollars are spent with regular audits and ongoing reviews from their authorizing entities. NH public charter schools are required to submit quarterly and annual financial reports to the NH DOE and have a fiduciary responsibility to the state of NH.


Myth: Public charter schools are not accountable to state educational standards.

Public charter schools are required to meet all state and federal education standards, just like traditional public schools. In addition, they are judged on how well they meet student achievement goals established by their charter contracts and programmatic evaluations by their authorizers.  All  public charter schools must meet rigorous academic, financial and managerial standards in order to be reauthorized every five years.

Myth: Public charter school teachers are unqualified.

NH Charter law requires that at least 1/2 of all lead teachers be NH certified. Public charter schools seek teachers whose interests match the needs of their mission. Many of these are certified in traditional teaching methods, some in non-traditional approaches. In fact, charter schools often attract a greater variety of teachers than may typically teach in traditional/neighborhood public schools.

Myth: Public charter schools cherry pick the best students and parents away from district schools.

Federal and state laws require public charter schools enroll to students by lottery.  Any student can apply from anywhere in NH to NH state-issued charter schools.

Myth: Public charter schools can teach whatever they want.

Public charter schools have some flexibility in curriculum and instruction, but have been expected to use the NH Curriculum Frameworks as a guide currently and move now the Common Core. Public charter school students take the same standardized state tests as other public school students. The NH DOE judges successful academic outcomes of charter schools in large part on those test results.

MythNH Charter School Board Trustees are self appointed.

NH public charter school Board face the same challenges to populate their volunteer boards as public district schools. While not publically elected, these members are selected by current Board Trustees based on the skills they need to round out the school’s needs, so that the Boards can best oversee the financial and functional health of the school and its programming.

Myth: If public charter schools receive sustainable funding then every district school will want to become a charter school.

Why would a public district school reduce its funding to 50 percent by eliminating local tax dollars?

Additional background: The state average education funding is approximately $14,000 per child per year. In contrast, NH public charter schools receive $5,498 per child, per year for elementary students, and $3,725 for kindergarten students (the state only pays for a 1/2 day program for charter kindergarten students). Charter schools are responsible to fill the funding gap between the actual cost of the per-pupil education and the funding received from the State.


TEXT of HB 563

FISCAL IMPACT:

The Department of Education states this bill, as introduced, will increase state education trust fund expenditures by $6,184,897 in FY 2016, $8,581,166 in FY 2017, $10,579,043 in FY 2018, and $13,427,090 in FY 2019. There will be no impact on state revenue, or county and local revenue or expenditures.

METHODOLOGY:

The Department of Education states this bill, assumed effective for FY 2016, amends the amount of money per pupil the state would provide to public charter schools for each student.

Under current law, the annual per pupil aid for public charter schools is $3,780.64 for kindergarten students, and $5,561.21 for grade 1-12 students, plus qualifying differentiated aid under RSA 198:40-a. Under this bill, per pupil aid for all pupils (including kindergarten) would be calculated at 50 percent of the most recently available statewide average cost per pupil for traditional public and public charter schools would no longer be eligible for differentiated aid. The Department estimates, based on historical costs and trends, the average cost per pupil to be as follows:

School Year

Statewide Cost per Pupil

50% Estimated Statewide Cost Per Pupil

Year Rate Used For Charter Per Pupil Funding,

Under This Bill

2013/2014

$14,001.08

$7,000.54

FY 2016

2014/2015

$14,448.60

$7,224.30

FY 2017

2015/2016

$15,011.54

$7,505.77

FY 2018

2016/2017

$15,596.41

$7,798.21

FY 2019

The Department states based on current enrollment projections and assuming the Department will have a similar memorandum of understand with the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS) as it has had in recent years relative to state funding, the estimated increase of state education trust fund expenditures is as follows:

State Average (1) $14,200.30 $13,320.82 $14,109.48 $14,001.08

FY 2016

FY 2017

FY 2018

FY 2019

Current Law

 

 

 

 

Annual Per Pupil Aid (Kindergarten)

$3,780.64

$3,780.64

$3,816.25

$3,816.25

Annual Per Pupil Aid (Grades 1-12)

$5,561.27

$5,561.27

$5,632.49

$5,632.49

 

 

 

 

Enrollment Projection (Kindergarten) 166 166 166 166
Enrollment Projection (Grades 1-12) 3,408 4,123 4,344 4,562
Total Per Pupil Aid (Kindergarten)

$627,586

$627,586

$633,498

$633,498

Total Per Pupil Aid (Grades 1-12)

$18,952,808

$22,929,116

$24,467,537

$25,695,419

Differentiated Aid

$1,255,225

$1,506,340

$1,615,617

$1,693,711

VLACS

$7,730,165

$8,892,471

$10,357,313

$11,910,910

Total Under Current Law

$28,565,784

$33,955,513

$37,073,964

$39,933,538

Proposed

 

 

 

 

Annual Per Pupil Aid (Kindergarten)

$7,000.54

$7,224.30

$7,505.77

$7,798.21

Annual Per Pupil Aid (Grades 1-12)

$7,000.54

$7,224.30

$7,505.77

$7,798.21

 

 

 

 

Enrollment Projection (Kindergarten) 166 166 166 166
Enrollment Projection (Grades 1-12) 3,408 4,123 4,344 4,562
Total Per Pupil Aid (Kindergarten)

$1,162,090

$1,199,234

$1,245,958

$1,294,503

Total Per Pupil Aid (Grades 1-12)

$23,857,840

$29,785,789

$32,605,065

$35,575,434

Differentiated Aid

$0

$0

$0

$0

VLACS

$9,730,751

$11,551,656

$13,801,985

$16,490,691

Total Under This Bill

$34,750,681

$42,536,679

$47,653,008

$53,360,628

Estimated Increase / (Decrease)

$6,184,897

$8,581,166

$10,579,043

$13,427,090


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About Carol Robidoux 5198 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.