AG explains advice to block new charter schools

By Grant Bosse on October 10, 2012
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(CONCORD) The New Hampshire Board of Education was acting on advice from the Attorney General’s Office when it decided to block approval of any new charter schools in the Granite State. In a letter to House Education Committee Chairman Michael Balboni, Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards says the Board lacks authority to approve new charter schools if the Legislature has not appropriated enough money to fund them.

Under RSA 198:42, the Legislature voted to allow the Department to spend only 110 percent of budgeted amounts. If the Department sought to expend more, it would need both Fiscal Committee and Governor and Council approval. As the Department does not have such approval, there is no current appropriation. Because there is no current appropriation, the State Board cannot approve charter school applications and bind the State to expend funds absent such approval or a legislative change. As a result, the State Board conditionally denied charter school applications based on funding source issues.”

Charter school supporters point out that the schools applying for approval wouldn’t start operating until the next two-year budget, and the Legislature hasn’t started crafting that budget yet.

The Fiscal Committee and Executive Council last year approved an additional $300,000 to fund charter school payments. Board Chairman Tom Raffio estimates a shortfall of between $4.4 and $.53 million this year for the 17 charter school currently operating in New Hampshire. But those funds would not go to any of the charter schools currently seeking approval.

Edwards’ letter outlines the legal arguments used by the Board of Education, but she declined to provide the Education Committee copies of the actual communication between the BOE and the AG’s Office, citing attorney-client privilege.

Balboni Letter- Charter Schools 10-10-12

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3 Comments For This Post So Far

  1. Jen
    2:02 pm on October 10th, 2012

    The Legislature would have appropriated enough funding for the current charter schools had they been given the correct numbers by the DOE who – although they had the correct figures – supplied incorrect ones.

    “If the Department sought to expend more, it would need both Fiscal Committee and Governor and Council approval.” The Fiscal Committee told the DOE to make a request for additional funds when it learned of the under-reporting, but that request never came. They can’t approve what was never sought. Considering the number of charter applications pending, it is interesting that the DOE encouraged the Board of Ed to just deny them all rather approach the Fiscal Committee for the increase in the funding they were expecting to approve.

    Now the Board of Ed is stating that they want the new legislature to be seated before deciding whether or not to approve any new schools. Delaying these applications into next year will prevent them from opening in the fall of 2013, and will jeopardize their ability to receive the full three years of start up funding (from the federal grant that runs out in 2015). Perhaps legal, although that still doesn’t seem clear, but certainly unethical.

    If those schools do not open in time, the federal government is likely to disapprove of NH’s handling of the grant and revoke the remaining funding to the 8 new schools that opened in 2012, as well as the balance not yet appropriated – millions of dollars that belonged to NH’s students. Let’s not even get into any future grants that might have been.

    A very shrewd political move. Doesn’t benefit those students who are slipping through the cracks at an alarmingly increasing rate, by giving them alternatives that might better meet their needs. Certainly doesn’t benefit the taxpayers who spend more than 3 times the amount educating a child in a district school rather than a charter school. Doesn’t allow for innovation in education that could be shared across all public schools when it’s successful. But why would any of that be the DOE or the BOE’s concern?

    A real shame for NH – especially the kids.

  2. Sandy Rhodes
    3:18 pm on October 10th, 2012

    Time for new leadership in Concord


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