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Charter School Funding Moves Forward in N.H.

Concord — A bill to revert charter school spending practices back to those in place before 2010 is officially moving forward, but it likely won’t mean an earlier end to the moratorium on new charter schools.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Ralph Boehm, R-Litchfield, and two other members of the House Education Committee. The bill, which was filed earlier this month, would permit the state to approve as many charter schools as it wants each year and ensure state funding would be available.

“Charter schools can’t be played around like they were,” Boehm said. “This sort of fixes the problem and puts the law back the way it was when (funding) wasn’t an issue.”

The charter school law was changed by the Legislature’s joint fiscal committee in the last budget cycle, after the Department of Education gave lawmakers incorrect information regarding projected charter school enrollment. In an attempt to aid the department, the committee changed the law, allowing the department to expend up to 110 percent of the amount appropriated to charter schools.

Since then, however, education officials have said this change made approving new schools more difficult. The debate led the state board to enact a moratorium on new schools in September, which is still in place.

Boehm said the situation was an unintended consequence of the funding law change, and that he hopes his bill can fix the problem.

The bill would require that the “amount necessary to fund chartered public school tuition payments ... is hereby appropriated to the department from the education trust fund established. The education trust fund shall be used to satisfy the state’s obligation under this paragraph.”

According to the text of the bill, the payment to charter schools must be issued regardless of the balance of funds available in the trust fund.

Boehm said this should not be a financial burden for the state because education aid in New Hampshire follows the student. If a student leaves one school to attend a charter school, he said, the student’s per pupil aid amount is not a new cost, it is simply shifted to the new school.

Boehm’s bill is the second drafted this year to help fix the charter school funding issues. Rep. Ken Weyler, R-Kingston, along with other representatives and state senators, planned to file a similar bill, but it was not filed in time.