EDUCATION FUNDING and policy have long been sources of political tension in New Hampshire.
Going back to the decades that led up to the state Supreme Court’s Claremont decision, to the years of deliberation over the definition of the word “adequate,” to the more contemporary debates over vouchers and charter schools, it seems as though we are in a state of constant conflict over education in New Hampshire.
This, in spite of the fact that we have one of the best school systems in the entire country.
In 2017, New Hampshire ranked first in the nation for student math and reading scores, high-school graduation rates and college readiness, according to U.S. News and World Report’s “Best States” rankings.
Unfortunately, politicians often disregard this fact when it comes to their partisan political battles, using education policy to advance their partisan rivalries rather than building on our success in the interest of Granite State students.
We saw this happen again last week when the legislative Fiscal Committee voted along party lines to table a $46 million federal grant for charter schools in New Hampshire.
Democrats on the committee blocked the state’s ability to access the funds for Granite State children out of political spite and in doing so revealed once again their willingness to put their politics over people.
New Hampshire has 29 public charter schools, currently serving approximately 4,000 students. They are accountable to the same academic standards as all other public schools in the state, but they allow educators to innovate with new approaches to learning that have been extremely successful, bringing national attention to our charter schools.
These alternatives to traditional public classrooms have become a valuable alternative for many New Hampshire children.
While Democrats would like to frame charter schools as “private” education for the exclusive few, in New Hampshire, it is quite the opposite.
Our charter schools are public and they provide educational opportunities that previously would have been inaccessible for many at-risk students.
They have opened educational doors for students who, in other learning environments, would have fallen through the cracks.
And they are doing such a good job that some have been recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools.
It is inexcusable that Democrats in Concord have blocked this infusion of funds into our schools, but it is not particularly surprising.
The Fiscal Committee, whose founding purpose was simply to act as a conduit to move funds on behalf of the state when the Legislature was not in session, tried to play political games with state funds last summer as well, when we were functioning under a continuing resolution.
What’s more, both Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, and Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, D-Concord, referenced the state budget in comments about voting against use of the funds, creating the impression that their votes were more about political payback to the governor for vetoing the budget, to begin with.
New Hampshire Democrats make no secret of the fact that they would prefer to see every one of our children herded into a generic public school classroom where every student — regardless of interest, ability or challenge — is put through an identical learning process.
The problem with this is that every child is unique; their learning styles, their academic interests and the challenges they face at home, which influence their ability to learn in the classroom are not the same.
The opportunity to succeed in school should not be driven by zip code or the partisan, political pettiness of Democrats in Concord.
The federal grant that Democrats tried to kill in the Fiscal Committee would have provided $46 million over five years to build on the success of the existing infrastructure of public charter schools and would cost New Hampshire taxpayers nothing.
In a world where politics have become more and more partisan, Governor Sununu has maintained high approval ratings because of his commitment to work for all Granite State families.
He has prioritized continued improvements for our education system and creating learning opportunities for even our most at-risk students.
I wish the Democrats in Concord would join him.
Former state Republican Party chair Jennifer Horn is active in political and civic affairs.