Home > Uncategorized > In Accepting Federal Money for Charters, NH’s Newly Minted GOP Legislature Sounds Death-Knell for Equitable Funding

In Accepting Federal Money for Charters, NH’s Newly Minted GOP Legislature Sounds Death-Knell for Equitable Funding

December 15, 2020

The Concord Monitor’s Ethan DeWitt wrote an article on Friday, December 11, describing the GOP legislator’s decision to accept a $46,000,000 block grant from the federal government to expand the number of charter schools in the State. As noted in a post last week, given the GOP’s sweep at the State level, the celebration of DeVos’ demise is premature in New Hampshire. Worse, as DeWitt’s article underscores,  the budget implications of the implementation of her choice policies will be devastating. Why? Because the GOP legislators (and the NH Commissioner of Education and Governor) all seem to think that local districts can make painless budget cuts if they lose state aid that follows each child: 

Charter schools receive “adequacy grants” from the state, money that follows the student if the student leaves a traditional public school and goes to a charter school. Democrats have contended that new schools would siphon those funds from public school systems, while Republicans argued that the traditional, “neighborhood” schools can downsize their budgets if they lose students.

Butadvocates of traditional public schools say cutting costs isn’t so easy. If, for example, a handful of students leave from multiple grades at a school, class sizes would go down by one or two students, but not enough to eliminate whole classes entirely. And school buildings generally require the same amount of heat and electricity if there are 100 students or 90.

So let’s suppose a district loses 100 students who bring $3500 (a ball park easy-to-calculate number) each in adequacy aid. That school district either needs to raise an additional $350,000 in local taxes or cut that amount from the budget. Unless those students are clustered in a small range of grade levels the district will end it difficult to cut staff members or close a school… which means its costs will be fixed. Assuming that each teacher’s total compensation is $50,000 (a reasonable supposition since the last hired would be the first to be laid off), the district would need to cut seven teachers, a cut that would diminish the quality of education which would in turn, increase the desirability of parents seeking out a private or charter school that would be willing to enroll them. 

And, as Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester noted, this move is particularly bad given the added costs to schools as a result of the pandemic: 

“The overhead costs to our school districts have only increased over the past year as they do everything in their power to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep our kids in the classroom,” D’Allesandro said. “With declining enrollments across the state, it is imperative that we invest more in our existing public schools, not create more schools that will be left underfinanced.”

Having consulted in the desperately poor North Country of New Hampshire I can attest to the deplorable condition of many of the physical plants in that part of the state, conditions that require a substantial infrastructure investment particularly when air quality is a contributing factor to the spread of COVID-19. The notion that relatively affluent parents in relatively affluent communities in New Hampshire MIGHT be able to apply their dollars to private and parochial schools they are already attending (an acceptable idea to many GOP legislators and to Commissioner Edelblut) is appalling… but more likely than not to come into being. 


%d bloggers like this: