Republican legislators continue to push for a bill that would allow New Hampshire to accept $46 million in federal grant money to open public charter schools for thousands of at-risk children.
"The winners of the grant would be the kids who have access to charter schools, and the kids who remain in the traditional public schools also win," Andrew Cline, chairman of the state Board of Education, told The Center Square.
“There are over 1,300 New Hampshire students on waiting lists to get into public charter schools, and it is on us to open these doors of opportunity for them," Gov. Chris Sununu said in a news release. "I hope the Democrats that previously shut down this grant opportunity listen to the families that are impacted and put kids above special interests."
In December, Democratic lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Committee voted to turn down the first installment of the $46 million awarded by the federal Charter School Program (CSP). The new bill under consideration would allow the state to accept the grant.
"Senate Bill 747 opens a different path for the state to retrieve a grant," Cline said. "The traditional path is to go through the fiscal community. Legislators who would like to receive the grant want SB 747 to try to go through the entire Legislature rather than let a handful of members of the legislature have control of the grant money."
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andru Volinsky, a member of the Executive Council, harshly criticized the bill.
"Senate Bill 747 is nothing more than an attempted power grab by Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut and his Republican allies in the legislature," Volinsky said in a statement. "[U.S. Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos' cronies would rather create new charter schools while citing weak, politically motivated analysis that makes overblown claims about saving taxpayers' money."
Cline said a misunderstanding about the grant is that it would create new charter schools that would otherwise not have been created.
"It may be the case that this grant will simply provide funding to stabilize and open new charter schools that are already in the pipeline," Cline said. "At the Board of Education, we continuously receive two, three, four applications a year for new charter schools."