What is a Charter School?
- Charter schools are public schools.
- Independent and tuition free to in-state students.
- Operated in accordance to a specific mission or “charter”. The “charter” establishes a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success.
- Charters are granted for a period of 5 years, after which they must be thoroughly evaluated prior to reauthorization.
- New Hampshire has two authorizers, the NH State Board of Education and the Local School District.
- Most charter schools in New Hampshire are authorized by the State Board of Education. The local authorization process is quite complicated and only one school has opened using this method.
- There are 17 charter schools in New Hampshire, including the Robert Frost Charter School in North Conway, which educates about 80 students.
New Hampshire was awarded a federal startup grant in 2010 to fund the creation of new charter schools. The grant totals $11.6 million and runs through 2015. All of the startup costs associated with opening a new charter school are born by the federal grant.
The grant covers items such as teacher training, curriculum development, books, computers, equipment, pens, papers, toner etc. There is approximately $5.2 million in startup funds remaining (as of 2/13). This works out to about eight more charter schools over the next two and a half years.
Charter schools do not receive state funding until after the school has opened. It typically takes about 9-18 months to open a charter school after it receives authorization.
Both State and Locally Authorized charter schools receive about $5,498 per student, per year, directly from the State. ($3498 in state tuition aid & $2000 in fiscal disparity aid).
Locally Authorized charter schools may receive additional funds from their local district, (in addition to the $5498), according to the terms of their agreement.
The 2013 House budget maintained current levels of funding for the 17 authorized public charter schools.
State Budget Line Items
Charter school funding is split into two separate line items in the State budget.
The first line is called “Charter School Tuition” (approximately $3498 per student, the same as for students enrolled in other public schools).
The second line is called “Fiscal Disparity – Charter Schools” ($2,000 per student). Charter schools receive an additional $2,000 per student because they do not have a tax base and do not receive local tax payer dollars as traditional public schools do.
These line items are calculated by adding Charter Enrollment + Projected growth + Projected Startups. The DOE then gives the projected enrollment numbers to the state legislature. These numbers are then used during the budget process to calculate how much funding is needed.
- Charter schools receive less than half the average cost per pupil that traditional schools receive.
- In FY 2013, charter schools represented approximately 1.4% of total state adequacy aid to all public schools.
- At this point, NH public charter schools are said to be the lowest funded in the United States.
Special Education Costs
All federal and state special education money goes to the child’s resident school district. The school district of residence is responsible for providing the special education services of children enrolled in a public charter school.
Oversight & Management
In many states, charter schools have failed due to poor state oversight and management. In NH, however, there is a clear process for developing and granting a charter.
The state Board of Education and the Department of Education have oversight authority ensuring that charter schools implement their missions.
Charter schools are responsible for meeting Common Core Standards.
In 2013, an amendment to the House budget that would have eliminated any oversight and accountability was proposed but failed.
HB 435 – Interim Study
- Provides that funding for chartered public school pupils shall be based on 50 percent of the most recently available statewide average cost per pupil for public school pupils.
- Provides approximately $1018 per student in additional funding to the RobertFrostCharterSchool.
- The anticipated additional cost to the state would be $1,091,659 in fiscal year 2013. The money would come from the Educational Trust Fund so taxes would not be increased.
- Relative to tuition payments for chartered public school pupils
- Would end the moratorium on public charter schools
- Committee Report: INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE, The committee found that HB 2, the “trailer bill” in its section 61, in the 2014-2015 budget, funded chartered public school tuition payments, thus making this bill unnecessary. Vote 21-0.