CONCORD — New Hampshire School Administrators Association (NHSAA) Executive Director Carl Ladd and the NHSAA wish to share information on House Bill 455, which seeks to allow any student who is a resident to attend any public school statewide.
“This is a complex and far-reaching initiative that, coupled with the other school choice related legislation being proposed, would drastically change the educational landscape in New Hampshire while leaving many logistical, financial questions unanswered,” Dr. Ladd said. “I implore the legislature to hold off on this issue, so that, if our state truly wishes to pursue this course we could instead create a Study Commission similar to the School Funding Commission to bring in experts in school choice and more thoroughly consider the various factors involved in implementing such a far reaching school choice option.”
HB 455 would permit any student who is a resident of New Hampshire to choose to attend any public school, academy or program in the state as well as any such program in a state with an interstate compact with New Hampshire as long as there is no application fee or tuition fee for nonresident students.
Schools would be required to make application decisions within 10 days of receiving applications, and would be permitted to deny acceptance only if there was no space or capacity in the school to accept another student and/or the student was expelled or suspended by their resident district. Waitlists would be created in the event more students applied to a school than the school could accept. The bill does not specify who would determine the capacity of schools to accept out-of-district students.
However, the state already has systems in place to facilitate open enrollment, through which a district can identify one or more of its schools as an open enrollment school. Through existing state law, districts have the authority to identify the number of out-of-district students they will accept, applications must be no-cost, and neither the sending or receiving district is responsible for the transportation of an out-of-district student. There is also a process in place for two or more districts to create an admissions lottery for school choice. Federal law allows school choice for students attending Comprehensive School Improvement (CSI) schools as well.
State law also requires schools designated as a “persistently dangerous school” must notify students and families and offer the option to transfer the student to a different school within the district.
Where currently district leadership has a voice in school choice, HB 455 would transfer that decision making power more squarely to students and families, and place the burden on schools to accept as many out-of-district students as possible while re-distributing state funding.
“Where our state already has avenues for school choice under certain circumstances, this bill appears to seek out vague, broad sweeping change with the potential to drastically reallocate funds,” Dr. Ladd said. “This could severely undercut the ability for some districts to function financially while inundating others with new students. This isn’t a change we should make lightly, or without the proper due diligence of thorough research and planning.”
Through HB 455, state funds for individual students would be allocated to the school they chose to attend. The bill also fails to identify whether sending or receiving districts would be responsible for providing, overseeing and funding special education services.
To read the bill in full, click here.
HB 455 was last discussed by the House Education Committee on Thursday, March 4. To view the status of the bill, click here.
NHSAA is a nonprofit organization serving approximately 275 members and is dedicated to providing the best possible public education for the children of New Hampshire. Membership of NHSAA includes superintendents of schools, assistant superintendents, school business officials, special education directors, curriculum coordinators and other system administrators.
NHSAA provides its membership with professional development training and conference opportunities as well as myriad resources to support their role as educators, and also honors educational professionals statewide with annual awards including Superintendent of the Year, the Outstanding Service Award and Champions for Children.
To learn more, visit NHSAA’s website by clicking here.