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October 08. 2013 5:12PM

Beating Bedford: How can other districts compete?

Forbes magazine has ranked Bedford’s school district No. 2 in the country, and No. 1 in the Northeast, in its new ranking of the “Best Schools for Your Housing Buck.” The accolade is more than a boasting point for Superintendent Tim Mayes and his team. It gives school officials and parents around New Hampshire a lot of food for thought.

For starters, Forbes noted that all of the top-ranking districts were aided by private organizations that raised money to support the schools. The Bedford Education Foundation is only a few years old, but it adds tens of thousands of dollars in charitable funds to the school budget to provide additional teacher training and other perks. These parent-led groups help keep taxes low while improving school quality.

Most of the top-ranked districts were in small towns located close to large cities. They tended to be filled with parents who had high-paying jobs but chose to live outside of urban cores. Obviously that is not an option for every town. But there is a proven way to improve both urban and rural school districts: Offer parents more choices.

Bedford is the seventh-best school district in New Hampshire according to the school ranking site Forbes used. The best? The Academy for Science and Design Charter School in Merrimack. Not every family can move to Bedford. But most school districts can have a public charter school.

And every district can offer parents more choices if the state were to allow parents to use their school aid at the school of their choice rather than the school to which they are assigned. This would let kids find better schools while also spurring traditional schools to improve.


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