The New Hampshire Department of Education is getting $46 million from the federal government to expand public charter schools over the next five years.
The DOE says it will use the money to help new charter schools with start-up costs and increase professional development for charter school staff.
Charter schools have been slow to grow in New Hampshire. Over the past 15 years, the State Board of Education has approved 33 charters, and 28 schools are now operating. With this new grant, the DOE says it plans to add 27 new schools over the next five years, with a particular focus on serving poor and at-risk students.
The grant money will be used to help schools with start-up costs, rather than ongoing operational costs, which are covered by a combination of state funding and external fundraising.
Meryl Levin, the executive director of the Mill Falls Charter School in Manchester, said the new grant could be a gamechanger for groups seeking to start charter schools.
“It is impossible to start a charter school if you don’t have those federal start-up funds," she said. "At the end of the day, you need to find a space for your school, you need to populate it with furniture and materials, you maybe need to do a renovations on the space, and when you sign a lease, you have to put money down on that lease.”
The DOE currently has one charter school administrator to oversee charter schools, and the State Board of Education approves applications and reviews audits from charter schools.
Levin says she hopes that the growth in charter schools will be accompanied by a growth in resources for and monitoring over the schools.
“There definitely needs to be strong structure and oversight and support - political, financial - for this piece of the public education system,” she says.
In a press release Thursday, DOE Commissioner Frank Edelblut said:
“New Hampshire charter schools have not only provided excellent educations for Granite State students, but provided a model for innovation and education improvement for the nation. Every kid deserves an educational environment in which they can thrive. Charter schools provide a valuable alternative for students who need one.”