Governor signs school choice bill into lawBy MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent
June 29. 2017 9:07PM
CROYDON — Gov. Chris Sununu signed Senate Bill 8 into law on Thursday inside Croydon Village School, saying that the bill is a signal to all Granite State families that he understands and believes in school choice.
The law grants small school districts like Croydon the ability to contract with and pay tuition to private schools, when the school district doesn’t have the ability to provide all grade levels
“I think this is a great first step. A real signal to the families of New Hampshire that we’re making that change and we’re really putting choice first,” Sununu said.
Sununu said some don’t understand the challenges small school districts like Croydon face.
Before signing, Sununu thanked the Croydon residents who he said were, “the reason we were able to push this legislation.”
He says the legislation will provide “a lot of flexibility, real choice for families and individuals not just here in Croydon, but in a lot of towns across the state and it’s going to be really transformative and this never would have hit our desks if it wasn’t for you.”
Sununu also thanked State Sen. Ruth Ward and State Representatives Virginia O’Brien Irwin and James Grenier for their work to see the bill through.
“It took a long time to come to this day,” Irwin said. “And I’m pleased — I’m pleased for the people of Croydon — but I’m pleased for the people of the state that will have some options for those districts that don’t have the ability to fund all the grades and I appreciate the bipartisan support that went into this and I’m pleased that you’re willing to sign it.”
The Croydon Village School educates about 25 students in grades Kindergarten through fourth grade. The school district has about 60 other children from grades five through 12 to educate and had for many years paid tuition to Newport middle and high school to do so. However, in the fall of 2014 the school district began offering a choice to parents who wanted to send their children to a different public school or a private school. The school district paid the tuition to the other school. Using Newport as a guide, the Croydon School District would only pay up to the amount it cost to send a student to a Newport public school. If it cost more, the family paid the difference.
The New Hampshire Department of Education took the school district to court, arguing it was illegal for a school district to pay tuition to a private school and won at the superior court level in Newport.
Croydon School Board member Jody Underwood said Thursday the decision had been appealed by the school district and was currently in the state supreme court. The court cause was stayed while the bill was making its way through the Legislature. Now that is has been signed by the governor, the court cause is moot, she said.
The past two and half years of fighting with the state over the issue has been difficult said Croydon School Board member Angi Beaulieu, who had two children attending Newport Montessori through the Croydon School District school choice program during the fight with the state.
“Just give the parents the choice,” she said Thursday. “If an option isn’t working for the kids they have another option so they have another place to turn.”