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The false hope of charter schools

The Telegraph urged New Hampshire lawmakers to take a $46 million federal grant for drastically expanding charter schools (“Look at issue in different light,” Feb. 16). But this “free” money comes with strings: less accountability, more segregation and higher costs for taxpayers.

First, charters wouldn’t answer to elected school boards. To date, only one charter school in New Hampshire is authorized through a local school district; the other 28 are authorized through the State Board of Education. Why expand a charter system that takes local control away?

Second, charters would worsen segregation. Charters often “cherrypick,” tending to enroll fewer students with disabilities, fewer English language learners and fewer students living in poverty than do nearby public schools. A Civil Rights Project analysis called the charter school movement “a civil rights failure,” finding that charters are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the nation.

Third, charters would drain money from our public schools. In 2014, the Boston Globe reported that Boston’s public schools were losing a total of $87.5 million in state aid to about two dozen charter schools. One reporter concluded, “Charters are driving Boston’s public education system to the financial brink.”An analysis by Reaching Higher NH shows that expanding the number of charter schools here, per the federal grant, could cost our state an additional $57 million to $104 million in the first 10 years, to cover projected costs.

Ninety percent of parents in this country send their kids to public schools. That’s where they want taxpayer money to go: A 2018 Phi Delta Kappan poll showed nearly eight in 10 Americans believe public schools should be improved, not replaced with alternatives.

We applaud our legislators’ decision not to fall for easy money and the false hope of charters. Charters are the wrong choice for New Hampshire.