Second chance for charter schools: Edelblut to resubmit $46M federal grant

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Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education Frank Edelblut. Photo/Carol Robidoux

CONCORD, NH — New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut is coming before members of the Fiscal Committee a second time to resubmit a $46 million charter school replication grant for approval.

The federal grant, the largest of its kind ever awarded, seeks to replicate New Hampshire’s successful public charter schools in order to provide new opportunities for at-risk students. The Fiscal Committee rejected the first round of funding, $10.1 million, in December.

“It’s not too late to do the right thing,” Edelblut said. “For years, Republicans and Democrats agreed that public charter schools were a great option for students who can’t get the education they need in a traditional school setting. Public charter schools help us create more options for more students. We should be united on this.”

“Groups eligible to open a new charter school include two or more certified New Hampshire educators, 10 or more parents of students, non-profit organizations, or local school districts,” stated Caitlin Davis, the Director fof the Department’s Division of Educator and Analytic Resources. “Contrary to the understanding of many, New Hampshire charter schools are all public schools open to all students.”

Since the initial presentation to the Fiscal Committee in December, the Department has had an outpouring of support for the grant and will bring additional information to the committee to emphasize the importance of keeping the education of at-risk children a non-partisan issue. One district superintendent wrote, “The idea was to use the charter funds to create a 2 + 2 opportunity for 9th and 10th graders CTE experience tied to an Associate’s degree in their junior and senior years. The immediate area supers [superintendents] were interested in the concept, but that’s all it is, a concept. With the charter funds we could have developed it into a charter school. Without the funds, I’m afraid, we are dead in the water.”

In June 2016, then-Governor Maggie Hassan wrote a letter of support on behalf of the department applying for a similar grant. That grant included more aggressive expansion plans, proposing 15 additional schools over three years compared to the current grant which proposes 20 additional schools over five years. In her letter, Hassan emphasized the important role of New Hampshire’s “system of high-quality and accountable public charter schools… The schools create opportunity to provide access to an educational experience that students may not have otherwise.”

“Charter schools have become a highly partisan issue nationally as candidates stake out positons well outside of the norm and contradictory to our form of constitutional government. My hope is that these attitudes have not seeped down to our local elected officials,” Edelblut added. “It was only a few short years ago that a Democratic Governor sought federal funds to expand public charter schools in New Hampshire. This Legislature can restore bipartisan support for at-risk kids.”

The Department of Education has resubmitted the public charter school replication grant to the Fiscal Committee, which meets on Friday, Jan. 10.

Below: Letter from Gov. Maggie Hassan supporting NH Charter School grant application, 2016