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April 10. 2013 10:37PM

Gov. Hassan touts casino's potential impact on education funding during tour of Manchester charter school


Gov. Maggie Hassan speaks with Aarushi Loomba, a kindergarten student, at Mill Falls Charter School on Wednesday. (MARK HAYWARD/UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER - Gov. Maggie Hassan visited a Manchester charter school on Wednesday and said her plan for a casino represents a way to pay for an expansion of charter schools in the state.

Hassan advocated for a single destination casino after touring Mill Falls Charter School, the state's first publically funded Montessori school. The 93-student school is located in the Union Leader Corp. building.

"If we can have licensing fees from a casino, we will have additional revenues to invest in our priorities, and that's a really important thing for people to understand," Hassan said.

The state currently devotes $24 million to charter schools. Hassan's proposed 2-year budget earmarked another $18 million for charter schools, but the New Hamsphire House stripped the expanded funding out of its proposed budget.

"We could build three schools with the number of people trying to come here," said Michael O'Neil, head of school for Mill Falls.

He said 168 families applied for the 17 kindergarten spots opening up next year. Mill Falls, which is currently a K-3 grade school, has a five-year charter and plans to add a grade each year, up to sixth grade, he said.

The school receives $5,450 per student from the state, he said. That does not cover the costs, and a foundation raises additional funds for the school, O'Neil said. Some parents make voluntary contributions, but that is not required, he said.

Hassan, a Democrat, said she wants to expand charter schools because it is important to make different teaching styles available in the sphere of public education. She said charter schools will help public schools do that.

"Ultimately, the idea of charter schools is they're like laboratories and that what you learn from best practices in charter schools you integrate back into all public schools so that eventually what you should have is a public school system that is addressing different learning styles right there in one school," Hassan said.

mhayward@unionleader.com

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