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January 10, 2014

House backs charter school funding

House bill provides extra $1,000 per charter school student

Only a day after the new legislative session began, charter school advocates said yesterday they were pleased the House of Representatives gave preliminary approval to more funding for the schools.

The House voted, 177-124, in favor of House Bill 435, which would provide an additional $1,000 per student at each of the state’s 17 charter schools, according to Rep. Kenneth Weyler, R-Kingston.

Weyler, the bill’s sponsor, said the approval granted by the House on Wednesday is a positive first step toward providing the money the schools need to thrive.

“I was delighted,” he said. “It’s always a struggle to get money for the charter schools.”

The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee for review before a final vote is taken by the House, but Weyler said he doesn’t foresee any major obstacles. Charter schools are public schools that provide students with a specialized education, including the arts or math and science.

The New Hampshire Department of Education currently provides $5,498 for the education of each charter school student in the state, compared to about $3,450 for other public school students.

Charter schools must come up with the remainder of the approximately $13,695 needed to fund the state’s average cost per pupil, Weyler said. Traditional public schools rely on property taxes to foot the rest of the cost.

HB 435 changes the funding mechanism for charter schools. It would guarantee that the state fund 50 percent of the average cost per pupil as determined by the Department of Education.

Funding for charter schools is presently based on the state’s adequate education funding formula. The schools are also allocated an additional $2,000 per student. Weyler said there’s an additional $4 million in unspent money for charter schools that would be included in HB 435.

Although the funding must still receive final approval, charter school administrators in Southern New Hampshire said they have been closely following the legislation and were pleased with the vote.

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