FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
New Hampshire specific questions about public charter schools.
January 2021 – There are currently 29 charter schools operating across 31 different locations within New Hampshire. Together these public schools serve over 4,200 full-time students in “brick and mortar” schools. The Virtual charter school or VLACS, is the state’s only virtual charter school. VLACS serves approximately 12,000 students annual. The majority of students that attend VLACS attend their local traditional public school but choose to take one or more classes through VLACS.
New Hampshire charter schools unique. Unlike other states all of the charter schools in New Hampshire were founded by local parents, teachers and administrators who identified a need in their community and designed a public school option to fill that need. Some of the aspects which make New Hampshire charter schools unique include:
- All charter schools are independent, locally grown public schools, there are no charter management organizations (CMOs), (EMOs) or charter schools managed by “for-profit” groups in New Hampshire;
- Eight charter high schools provide alternative education programs designed to serve disengaged or educationally disadvantaged students;
- Three charter schools designed to offer students multi-age classrooms & project based curriculum;
- Three charter grade schools follow the child-centered Montessori education method;
- Three charter middle/high schools programs focus their mission on advanced STEM/STEAM fields;
- Two charter schools provide students a classical education and leadership model;
- Two charter schools were developed to provide students with an arts & technology integrated curriculum;
- There is one “Virtual” charter school offering online education options to approximately 12,000 New Hampshire students that attend their traditional public school full-time but take one or more courses through VLACS. This virtual charter school serves as model for other states.
Who may authorize a charter school to open in New Hampshire?
In New Hampshire there are two forms of charter school authorization, (State & Local). There are important differences between these two forms of charter school authorization. Groups should understand the differences prior to moving forward with any application.
1. Local Authorization – This process is used when a local school district wishes to open a public charter school within the resident district. This avenue affords the school district more control over the charter school. The “charter” document must be reviewed by the State Board of Education every five years however the final act of authorization (or denial), does not occur until after the local legislative body makes its determination of whether to approve or deny the request.
In “towns” the local legislative body is usually the voter and authorization would occur using the warrant article process. In “cities” the local legislative body is typically a town council and this body would approve or deny the request to open a charter school. (RSA 194-B:3)
2. State Board of Education Authorization – Using this approach the charter school applicant applies directly to the New Hampshire State Board of Education for authorization to open a public charter school. This process takes about one year to complete and authorization only occurs after the State Board of Education has voted to approve the charter school application. Applications to open a state authorized charter school may be submitted or “sponsored” by 2 or more local teachers, a groups of 10 or more parents or non-profit entities. (RSA194-B:3a)
Important differences to consider between state and local authorization
There are important differences between the statutory requirements of state authorized charter schools and locally authorized charter schools. (this is not a complete list)
- State authorized charter schools are funded directly by the state and do not receive local taxpayer support (RSA 194-B:11 I.(b)(1)(a));
- Locally authorized charters schools receive funding from both the state and the district
(RSA 194-B:11 I.(1)(a));
- State authorized charter schools must accept all students that apply and they are prohibited from giving local students preference (if more students apply than the charter can serve, it must hold a blind lottery);
- Unlike state authorized charter schools, locally authorized charter schools may give absolute enrollment preference to in-district students (RSA 194-B:2 IV)
- State authorized charter schools are governed by an independent board of trustees and not a local school board.
- Unlike state authorized charter schools, locally authorized charter schools may reserve up to 25% of board seats for local school board members. (RSA 194-B:5 II)
Who can apply to open a State Authorized charter school?
1. a nonprofit organization including, but not limited to, a college, university, museum, service club, or similar entity;
2. a group of 2 or more New Hampshire certified teachers;
3. a group of 10 or more parents.
All applications to open a state authorized charter school must be reviewed and approved by a vote of the State Board of Education.
Who can apply to open a Locally Authorized charter school?
This is generally a partnership between the local district, teachers and other stakeholders within a district, town or city. Groups generally consist of teachers, administrators, town officials and school board members. This group writes the charter which outlines the rights and responsibilities of both the district and the charter school.
The charter must be reviewed by the State Board of Education however the final act of authorization (or denial), does not occur until after the local legislative body makes its determination of whether to approve or deny the request. In “towns” the local legislative body is usually the voter and authorization would occur using warrant article process. In “cities” the local legislative body is typically a town council and this body would approve or deny the request to open a charter school.
Do charter schools take money from public schools?
Charter schools are public schools. When a child attends a charter school the state portion of adequacy aid (about $3,700 FY17) is sent directly to the charter school, local taxpayer dollars remain in the district and do not forward to the charter school. Because New Hampshire charter schools do not receive local tax dollars, the state legislature provides charter schools with an additional $3,411 per pupil FY17. Fiscally, charter schools have demonstrated greater efficiency.
Can charter schools charge students tuition?
No, charter schools are public schools and tuition-free for residents of New Hampshire. Out-of-state students may be charged tuition. While there is no charge for tuition, charter schools (like all public schools) may charge small fees for specific services and support.
How are public schools funded in NH?
– The state average cost per pupil to educate a student in grades 1-12 (FY17) was $15,310.67;
– The majority of funding (approx 60-70%) for New Hampshire students (not counting charters) is raised by the local district from the local tax payer. All public schools receive a base state adequacy amount of approx $3,724.27 per pupil (FY17), plus any applicable differentiated aid. Differentiated aid provides additional funding for certain individual factors such as ELL, FRL & students with special needs.
How are charter schools funded in New Hampshire?
State Authorized charter schools are funded directly by the state they receive no local funding at approximately $7,100 per student. This is considerably less than the statewide average expenditure of $15,000+ per student. (RSA 194-B:11 I.(b)(1)(A)).
Locally authorized charter schools are funded at approximately 80% of the average cost per pupil by their local district. Locally authorized charter schools receive state and local funds. (RSA 194-B:11 I.(a)).
Do charter schools have admissions policies?
By law, charter schools must have a fair and open admissions process, conducting outreach and recruitment to all segments of the community they serve. When more students apply than can be accommodated, charter schools are required by state and federal law to use a lottery to randomly determine which students are accepted. The one caveat is in the case of a locally authorized charter school which the law allows to give absolute enrollment priority to in-district students. Most New Hampshire charter schools have waiting lists.
Is transportation provided for students?
No, transportation is provided only if students who reside in the school district in which the school is located and request it. Most charter schools help maintain a student directory of contact information so that parents can work out car pooling arrangements among themselves. Quite a few families do carpool.
Special Education and Charter Schools
Any student may apply to attend a charter school, as public schools, charters are prohibited by law from discriminating against any group;
When a charter school student has an IEP, the charter school works closely with the local district to ensure that services are provided regardless of where the student attends class;
Differentiated aid for students with special needs (about $1,900) goes directly to the student’s resident district, not the charter school.
How are charter schools held account?
Charter schools are held accountable to parents, students & taxpayers in a variety of ways:Charter schools must produce & file quarterly financial statements with the NHDOE;Charter schools must conduct annual financial audits;Charter schools must produce & file an annual report with the State Board of Education;Charter schools must participate in a program audit once every three years;Charter schools must be reauthorized every five years.
Charter renewal (or denial)
In its forth year of operation a public charter school must notify its authorizing entity (The State Board of Education or Local District) of its intention to apply for renewal. The charter school’s authorizer will send a team to the charter school to evaluate the charter school’s academic and financial performance over the period of its operation. Interviews are held with parents, teachers, administrators and staff. The review team then prepares a report for the charter school authorizer who then holds a public hearing to determine if the charter school has met the conditions of its charter and to decide whether or not the charter school will be renewed (or denied).