VIEWPOINT: Charters schools are effective and transparent

For the Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/17/2022 11:19:06 AM
Modified: 5/17/2022 11:17:20 AM

Lionheart Classical Academy Chartered Public School is opening kindergarten through fifth grade this fall in Peterborough with nearly 200 students from over 20 towns and 10 teachers. The school will add a grade a year until K-through-12, and the incoming fifth-grade class will graduate in 2030. This is an exciting moment for the founding board, who started planning nearly two years ago.

The school is receiving a lot of attention, mostly positive, but there is a  knowledge gap about New Hampshire public charter schools in general and Lionheart specifically. Recently, there have been public statements that are confusing, misleading or simply wrong. Here’s what is important to know.

First, public charter schools are public schools. Like all New Hampshire public charters, Lionheart is open-enrollment (meaning any New Hampshire student can register), is tuition-free and admission is by lottery.

Next, there is confusion about how Lionheart is funded, among supporters and detractors alike. Public charters are funded primarily by the state and private donations, whereas the local public school district receives local, state and federal dollars. Property taxes fund the local school district only. New Hampshire Education Savings Accounts, often in the news, are not used for public charters; however, the state-run Federal Charter School Program grant, in the news recently, is used for public charters, including Lionheart.

Public charters are accused of “siphoning money,” “draining resources” and “increasing taxes.” Actually, New Hampshire public charters have a track record of educating students at half of the average per-student cost compared to public school districts ($9,473 versus $19,720, NH DOE 2020). 

Regarding curriculum, the New Hampshire State Board of Education expects public charter schools to offer something different to students. Lionheart, one of 31 New Hampshire public charters, is offering a classical liberal arts and sciences education combined with civic virtues. The school will use Hillsdale College’s K-12 Program Guide, which is used across the country and includes proven and successful phonics, literacy, math, history, literature, science, geography, art, music and physical education curriculum. 

Lionheart’s charter, approved last November by the state Board of Education and available to the public, provides extensive detail about the curriculum. Additionally, Lionheart submitted a required curriculum alignment to the New Hampshire Common Core State Standards with over 400 pages. For the Parent Information Sessions, the program guide “big book” and “Year At A Glance” by grade are proudly displayed on a curriculum table. Lionheart’s curriculum is not religious, Christian, political, revisionist or far-right. It is academic, transparent and available so teachers know what they are teaching, parents know what their children are studying and students know what they are responsible for learning.

New Hampshire public charter schools are regulated under RSA 194-B and are governed by a public board of trustees. Charters work with sending districts to provide special education services and their resident district to coordinate transportation. Public charters submit annual reports and audits and are responsible for achieving performance goals. Public charter students take annual state assessments. 

Americans support school choice, and public charters are closing the opportunity gap and delivering excellent education. Lionheart, not even open, has a waitlist. If parents can choose what works best for their families in nearly every other aspect of their lives, why not education?

Lionheart is grateful to offer a classical education option to New Hampshire families, and a little friendly competition never hurt anyone, especially when it is about putting students first.

Kerry Locke Bedard is a founding board member and now serves as executive director of Lionheart Classical Academy in Peterborough. To learn more, visit lionheartclassical.org.


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