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Lift the cap: Free the charter schools

The House will have the opportunity this Wednesday to fix a recent mistake that has hindered the expansion of needed public schools. Legislators should pass it with no hesitations.

Two years ago, lawmakers restricted the growth of public charter schools by placing a statutory cap on new funding. Traditional public schools are given their per-pupil allotments of cash regardless of how much money happens to have been budgeted. The 2011 law blocked funding for new charter schools, which are public schools, if the necessary expenditures exceeded 110 percent of what was budgeted. The law empowered the State Board of Education to approve new funding anyway, but last year the board famously cited the law to block the creation of new charter schools.

On Wednesday the House will consider House Bill 299, sponsored by Rep. Ralph Boehm, R-Litchfield. It erases the changes made in 2011 and restores the old law, which let state education funding flow to where the students were.

Charter schools are not private schools. They do not "cherry pick" the best students or "drain resources" from public schools. They are public schools. They just operate under a different, less stringent set of regulations so they can have more flexibility to devise educational approaches that work for some, but not necessarily all, students.

The Board of Education's moratorium on new charter schools has been detrimental to students who would do better in non-traditional educational environments. Fixing the law will help students by allowing for more innovation, which is Gov. Maggie Hassan's buzz word of the year. It should win the support of any legislator who is concerned about providing educational opportunities for children.

Eric Church
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