7/3/19 New Hampshire Charter Schools Struggle to Access Facilities Space and Facilities Funding

A report published by the National Charter School Resource Center highlights the significant challenges that New Hampshire charter schools face in accessing suitable facilities space and acquiring state funding for their facilities. The report, “An Analysis of the Charter School Facility Landscape in New Hampshire,” found that New Hampshire charter schools spend their operating dollars on facilities, and that spending varies across different ownership situations including:

  • On average, New Hampshire charter schools reported facilities expenses of $794, or 12.1% of per-pupil revenue;
  • Charter schools that rented from for-profit organizations paid an average of $987 per pupil, or 15.0 percent of state per pupil funding;
  • Charter schools that rented from non-profit organizations paid an average of $619 per pupil, or 9.7 percent of state per pupil funding, while charter schools that were located in district facilities paid an average of $383 per pupil, or 5.7 percent of state per pupil funding.

When charter schools have no choice but to rent space from for-profit organizations, the annual cost is an average of $1,545 per pupil. These locations often lack the amenities that traditional public schools have such as full kitchen facilities, art spaces, auditoriums, recreation zones and drop-off and pick-up areas.  District facilities are a more cost-effective option however New Hampshire charter schools have very limited access to space in vacant or underutilized district space. Only four charter schools or 17% were located in district-owned facilities. When asked, 70% of charter schools indicated that they would be willing to co-locate with a traditional public school in a district facility if space was offered by the district.

During the last legislation session a bill was introduced which would have given charter schools the Right of First Refusal, enabling charter schools to rent or lease empty or unoccupied school district facilities. Unfortunately that bill was defeated in the House.

Unlike most other states with charter school laws, New Hampshire charter schools do not receive state or local funding for facilities. Help could be on the way though as Governor Sununu has chosen to fund charter school lease aid in his proposed budget. If the budget is passed charter school lease aid would provide a reimbursement of 30% of the annual cost for rent or lease capping at up to $30,000 per charter school annually.

If funded, charter school lease aid would represent the first financial assistance for charter school facilities since charter schools began to open over fifteen years ago. This would allow each school to direct more of their operating dollars to where they should be going, to their students and their programs.

Matt Southerton

President, New Hampshire Alliance for Public Charter Schools