Monday, March 30, 2015

Virginia Barry Informed Croydon is Following the Law

The following article appeared in full on the Union Leader.

State wants to work with Croydon on school choice issue

Union Leader Correspondent

CROYDON — The Department of Education is looking for common ground on school choice in the Croydon School District, an official said Friday.

Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry “has met with some of the representatives of the community, and the commissioner has expressed an interest in supporting the community in looking at the options that are available,” Judith Fillion, director of the Division of Program Support at the Department of Education, said Friday afternoon on behalf of Barry.
“She wants to help in any way to have the community offer their children the best education possible,” Fillion said of Barry.

In a letter to Barry this week, Croydon School Board Chairwoman Jody Underwood defended the school district’s new practice of paying tuition to send a handful of students to private schools. There is nothing in state law that says public school districts can’t pay tuition to a private school, Underwood said.
In the letter, written by former N.H. Supreme Court Associate Justice Charles G. Douglas, III, Underwood also said Croydon would continue sending “students to private schools when it believes it is in the best interest of the child and the district.”
Fillion said Friday she didn’t know if Barry had received the letter or not yet, and did not have a response to the letter.

Underwood said, though, she has not heard from the Department of Education, yet she was pleased to hear Barry wants to support options.
“We look forward to working with her to provide the best opportunities for education for every child. Sometimes, private school best fits the needs of an individual student, and they should have the opportunity to attend those schools without additional costs,” Underwood said.
In February, Barry wrote to SAU 43 that the practice of sending pupils to private schools using taxpayer funds to pay tuition was unlawful and ordered the SAU to stop.

The letter from Douglas and Underwood argues against the state laws Barry used to support her order to stop school choice in Croydon:
“You cite RSA 193:1 and purport that it says that districts may only assign students to public schools. This is inaccurate. RSA 193:1 defines the duties of parents to ensure school attendance, and neither describes the duties districts have nor restricts the assignment ability of districts. In addition to your inaccurate interpretation, you cite to the portion of that statute that states: ‘A parent of any child at least 6 years of age ... shall cause such a child to attend the public school to which the child is assigned.’ You fail to cite section (a) of the statute which clearly states that private school attendance is an exception to attending public school.”
Croydon faced the possibility of the state withholding up to $39,000 in adequacy money next year if they continued school choice in the fall.

Croydon and Newport are both part of SAU 43. There had been a long-standing agreement that Croydon students would attend Newport schools after leaving Croydon Village School, a kindergarten through fourth grade elementary school.
There are currently about 60 students from fifth to 12th grade in the district. Most of the students continue to go Newport Middle/High School.

But since school choice became an option in the district, Croydon has been sending five of its students to a non-Newport school, including one student who attends public school in Sunapee, one who attends Kimball Union Academy in Meriden and three who attend Newport Montessori.
Along with state law, precedent also supports school choice, Underwood said.

Lyme has tuition agreements with both Thetford Academy and St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont, she said, and several communities along the Maine border have tuition agreements with the Fryeburg Academy in Maine.
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"Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening. The average American [should be] content with their humble role in life, because they're not tempted to think about any other role." - William T. Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889

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