The Bulletin Board

Federal money awarded to create new charter schools in the state, expand existing ones

By: - August 17, 2021 1:23 pm
Exterior of the department of education

Of New Hampshire’s allotment of the funding, $1.7 million, or 75 percent, will go directly to schools to improve services; the rest will be used by the Department of Education to help identify students. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

After years of controversy and delay, New Hampshire’s Department of Education has awarded the first tranche of a $46 million effort to double the number of charter schools in the state.

On Aug. 11, the department announced the first seven recipients of the federal funding, which was approved by the Trump administration and is meant to help fund startup charter schools, as well as replications and expansions of existing charter schools.

The first round of money will go to four new charter schools, the department said. Gathering Waters Chartered Public School, a new school in Keene, Northeast Woodland Charter School in Conway, and Spark Academy of Advanced Technologies, based out of Manchester Community College, will each receive $1.5 million to help with startup costs, the department announced. 

Heartwood Public Charter School, a new school whose founders plan to open somewhere in Coos County, will receive $1.2 million.

The department will also set aside $339,552 for CSI Charter School in Penacook to build a replica charter school elsewhere in the state, and will provide $600,000 each for The Founders Academy in Manchester and the MicroSociety Academy Charter School in Nashua to help them expand.

In a statement, Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut called the schools “innovative public education programs” and said competition had been “robust”; 14 schools in total had sent in applications for the funding, he said. 

“The expansion of high-quality public education programming across our state serves our students and our families well,” Edelblut said. 

But the federal grants attracted fierce debate when they were first announced in 2019. Edelblut, Gov. Chris Sununu, and Republicans in the State House argued they provided a risk-free opportunity to build new educational opportunities. The money would help create an additional 27 charter schools to add to the state’s current 29. 

But Democrats – who controlled the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee in 2019 and 2020 – objected to the funding on the grounds that the new schools would burden the state financially and divert resources that should stay in traditional neighborhood public schools. Charter schools do not receive money from local property taxes, but they do receive double the amount of state adequacy aid that traditional public schools do. In a series of votes over several months, Democrats on the Fiscal Committee voted down the aid. 

Republicans who took control of the Legislature in 2021 reversed direction and accepted the funds. 

The rest of the $46 million will be parceled out over five years, Edelblut said. The next round of funding awards will likely come in fall. 

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.