is a Charter School?
schools are public schools--independent, tuition-free, non-religious,
highly-accountable, cost- efficient public schools--operated according
to a specific, mission-driven charter. As of 2008, more than 4,100
chartered public schools are operating in 40 states and the District
(15) chartered public schools have been authorized by New Hampshire’s
State Board of Education and thirteen (11) are open and operating
as of April 2008. Students are thriving.
public schools are schools of choice. Students and teachers choose
to attend a chartered public school–no one is assigned. Thus,
the school only thrives if it meets the needs of parents, teachers,
and students. When a district hosts a school of choice, it also
provides a component of the No Child Left Behind Act. State-authorized
schools are typically, but not always, a choice for students
from any district in the state.
Independent and Public
public schools are independent public schools, operated free
of any district school, and governed by their own boards of trustees.
They are intended to be free of many state regulations but have
accountability for performance and accomplishments according
to the goals of the charter. Chartered public schools handle
their own budgets, decide their own salary and benefit structures,
and must have an audit of financial records each year. These
schools must follow public accounting, public meeting, and public
records guidelines for schools.
New Hampshire, the charter public school functions like a small
public school district in all areas except for special education.
Special education decision-making stays with the host school
district, as does the special education funding. By law, the
chartered public school and school districts can have mutually
advantageous contracts and/or have collaborative arrangements,
e.g. food programs, sports, courses. Whatever the charter school
purports to do, it is independent enough to focus on its specific
The charter school concept permits more freedom and independence
in exchange for greater accountability. Charter schools must focus
on results--outcomes. In business they say: What gets measured,
gets done. Each charter has specific goals and objectives which
must be measured to demonstrate learning gains and goal attainment.
Unlike traditional public schools, if the chartered public school
does not meet its goals or is poorly managed, the charter to operate
can be revoked.
New Hampshire charter school system requires quarterly reports,
annual financial audits, and a year-end accountability
progress meetings its goals. Most of the charter schools in New
Hampshire have individual program goals and plans for each student
so that achievement is closely tracked.
charter schools operate for approx. $2,000 less per student.
In New Hampshire, the expectation for cost efficiency is even
higher. The original (1995) funding policy for district charter
schools was for sending districts to provide 80% of their per
pupil cost (flexible provisions allowed for more or less than
80%). Under state authorization (2003, RSA 194-B:3-a) charter
school funding policy had two components which, in the first
year of schools, equaled 60% of average district costs. Funding
involved 1) state aid which was sent to districts and then from
districts to charter schools and 2) state grants. Federal funds
and special education funds were also to follow the child from
the district under both authorization models (district and state).
an independent school, the chartered public school is not bound
by existing union contracts and can develop its own salary and
benefit programs. Many chartered schools accommodate their decreased
per pupil cost through new and different ways of doing business.
Financial sustainability is a challenge for chartered public
schools and the best of these schools are entrepreneurial, creative,
Market System Model of School Reform
public schools are unique—they are market driven and subject
to market forces. They typically have a less bureaucratic and
hierarchical organizational structure, known to result in greater
productivity. Like US colleges, chartered schools are designed
to attract and then satisfy education customers and so they
are results-oriented. Most chartered schools in New Hampshire
are quite small—and this feature, particularly at the high
school level, allows every student to be known as an individual,
a quality that attracts and helps many teenagers.
of Charter Schools
Hampshire law specifically outlines 1) district-authorized
charter schools (serves students in the district), 2) state-authorized
charter schools (open enrollment statewide), and 3) conversion
schools (district teachers vote to convert to charter status
with the district’s approval). These schools can be any
size, any grade level including single grade levels, and
have any type of program as long as there are high standards
in core programs.
and New Hampshire Charter Schools
New Hampshire, chartered public schools cannot bond or
tax for school construction. They must locate and use space
based on lease, purchase, or gift. A local incentive for
charter schools is that creative use of existing facility
space allows a district to create choices, extract a portion
of students from an overcrowded school, and also save taxdollars
by using available spaces for schooling.
Charter schools are the federal government’s top choice for meeting
NCLB provisions Federal Requirements of Child Left Behind insist
underperforming schools offer “choice” or costly supplemental services
to students. Charter schools are considered one of the best ways
to address drop-out recovery and drop-out prevention, a national
high school initiative.
the chartered public school is one way a community can
grow without huge taxable debt for new buildings. A chartered
public school can relieve crowding, lessen building enrollments
in the home public school, and can decrease the need for
a new school or the size of a new school.
Most important, the small charter school provides a choice for
students, and usually these schools serve students who are
not thriving in the larger system but who thrive in these unique
systems, creating real future opportunity for young people—opportunity
based on a successful public education.
basic concepts of chartered public schools are:
with a specific purpose or style give parents and
||students a choice about their
||The focus on outcomes and reporting
stimulates traditional public
||schools. This is called the
ripple effect and is seen in most states. Some people think
this phenomenon is related
to competition but other people think that the new dialogue
about success and achievement is just contagious.
||New Hampshire charter school
law states a purpose: to encourage
schools with specific or focused curriculum, instruction,
methods, or target pupil groups."
||New Hampshire charter school law states its goals:
improve pupil learning and increase opportunities for learning"
enhance professional opportunities for teachers"
establish results-driven accountability ...and require the
|| measurement of
||•"to make school
improvement a focus at the school level"
schools that meet the needs and interests of multiple
regions, and even the state”
national education goals include expanding choice in public education
and stimulating many more "quality" chartered public schools,
decreasing the number of high school drop-outs, raising our levels
of achievement, and assuring all students thrive in the public education
system. Research suggests that more types of schools to assure “choice”
and “fit” is the wave of the future.
Federal grants and programs to support charter school planning and
start-up exceed $400 million. The average start-up award last year
was $450,000 (for 36 months). New Hampshire was awarded a $7.2 million,
3-year grant to provide charter school planning and start-up here.
An additional $500,000 was awarded because of so much interest in
these unique schools from all corners of the state.