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NH News

With New Majority, N.H. Republicans OK First Part of $46M Charter School Grant

New Hampshire State House photo
Allegra Boverman for NHPR
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New Hampshire lawmakers have approved a federal grant aimed at increasing the number of public charter schools in the state and helping existing ones expand.

The grant has been at the center of a fierce partisan debate for a year and was repeatedly blocked by State House Democrats, who cited concerns about the long-term sustainability of publicly-funded charter schools.

But with Republicans now in the majority, the $10.1 million grant sailed through the Legislature's joint fiscal committee on Friday with a 7-3 vote, with all Democrats opposed.

The money is the first installment of a multi-year $46 million grant from the Charter School Program at the U.S. Department of Education.

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In a press release released through the N.H. Department of Education, outgoing Secretary of Education Betsy Devos praised charter schools here as "models of innovation." She wrote: “Many in education should take a close look at how New Hampshire continues to expand opportunities for all its students, especially through public charter schools.”

Speaking to lawmakers on Friday, New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said he would continue advocating for public education funding to follow students to their school of choice.

"If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's the importance of creating options for our students, options for our families, so that they can engage ad they can find a way to have a pathway through their education in which they can be successful," he said.

With this money now approved, the state says five charter schools will each receive $1.5 million grants to expand their programs. Recipients include a school focusing on advanced technology housed at Manchester Comunity College and an outdoors-based Waldorf school in Conway.

Smaller grants of up to $600,000 will also be available.

According to the award, additional funds are contingent on grant reporting by New Hampshire and appropriations by Congress. Some discretion is left to the U.S. Secretary of Education, a position not yet named by president-elect Joe Biden.