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New N.H. charter schools get $10 million in start-up grants

NHPR file

The New Hampshire Department of Education distributed $10.2 million to help five new public charter schools open their doors over the past two years. That's according to the most recent data from the department.

The money is part of a $46 million grant from the federal government, aimed at doubling the number of charter schools in New Hampshire over five years.

The grants are in addition to per-pupil aid the schools receive from the state. The money is meant to help schools with start-up costs such as renovating buildings and recruiting staff and students.

Proponents of the charter school expansion say it offers families more choices for their children’s education and supports schools that operate at a lower cost to taxpayers than a traditional neighborhood school.

Critics say the expansion is siphoning off money and students from existing public schools, many of which are already facing declining enrollment due to demographic shifts.

Since 2020, the state Board of Education has approved five charters, which is the first step to establishing a new charter school. During that time, four existing charter schools closed their doors.

Of the newly approved schools, two use the Waldorf education model, known for its emphasis on holistic education and the arts. Two others use a curriculum from Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian college in Michigan, that is helping to start charter schools across the country with a focus on classical education and Western Civilization.

One of those, Lionheart Classical Academy, opened in Peterborough last month and currently has a waitlist.

In addition to Lionheart, which received $1.5 million, other schools receiving start-up grants include: Heartwood Chartered Public School in Jefferson ($1.2 million), Gathering Waters Charter School in Keene ($1.5 million), Northeast Woodlands Charter School in Conway ($1.5 million), and Spark Academy of Advanced Technologies in Manchester ($1.5 million).

The New Hampshire Department of Education expects to award a new round of grants next month.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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