Thursday, May 28, 2015

Croydon School Choice

Some people believe the school choice issue is not resolved.  Some people would rather have other people's children in a failing system than let parents do what is best for their own children.  Some people are about protecting a failing system, and not giving a rat's behind about actually doing what is educationally best for some children.  Croydon is paying well over $100,000 to send one child to a private school.   All children of Croydon have that right, some people want to block that right. The children that want to exercise that right cost Croydon taxpayers a lot less than the one children that is going to a private school.  It is time that certain members in our community and the neighboring community stop protecting a broken system and let parents do what is right for their children.  It is both fair and equal.

The following piece appeared in full on the Union Leader.


School choice issue still not resolved in Croydon
Union Leader Correspondent

CROYDON — With the school year coming to a close, the Croydon School District and New Hampshire Department of Education are no closer to resolving their disagreement over school choice.

The school district had started offering parents local private schools as an alternative after ending its area agreement with the Newport School District the year before.

In February, the state ordered Croydon School District to stop paying tuition to private schools.

Croydon School District Chairman Jody Underwood maintained her position Wednesday that school choice is supported by state law and precedent.

Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry disagreed, saying state law prohibits it. In a Feb. 25 letter to Cynthia Gallagher, superintendent of SAU #43, Barry wrote, “It has come to the Department’s attention that the District is sending its pupils to private school using taxpayer funds to pay tuition. Please be advised that this practice is contrary to law. Districts may only assign children to public school.”

In an email Thursday, Judith Fillion, director of the Division of Program Support at the Department of Education, said Barry plans to meet with representatives of the school district.

Underwood said a meeting was planned, but had to be canceled and has yet to be rescheduled.

The Croydon School District, though, has the law on its side and plans to continue to offer school choice to Croydon parents, Underwood said.

“We’re doing the right thing and nobody has told us why we can’t,” she said. “We fully intend to continue on doing this.”

Amanda Leslie, of Croydon, said not all residents support what the school board is doing. She said in an email that she supports school choice, but said the school district should adhere to the state Department of Education’s interpretation of state law.

“I am not opposed to school choice. I am opposed to fighting the Department of Education to change their interpretation of the law,” she said.

Gallagher said the vote to abolish the Newport area agreement and use a mix of public and private schools as an option was very close.

Gallagher added she has heard from some Croydon residents who have said they didn’t realize they were supporting paying tuition to private schools when they voted to end the area an agreement with Newport.

Gallagher said, as of right now, the SAU cannot continue to pay tuition to private schools, barring a change in state law or a court order.

“The SAU can’t process it in the current setting,” Gallagher said. “I’m working very hard with Jody to find a solution.”

The SAU can, however, continue to pay tuition to public schools that Croydon makes agreements with.

It’s been an interesting development from Croydon’s move to school choice, Gallagher said, how successful it has been in terms of public school choice.

Gallagher said when she worked at New England College in Henniker many years ago, she had wanted to tuition her child to attend kindergarten in Henniker, but it was too expensive for her.

It would have been ideal, though, being able to commute together and being close to her child in the case of an emergency.

Gallagher said the SAU has been helping Croydon parents who work out of the area and want to investigate possible tuition agreements with schools near their work.

Some people have even inquired about moving to Croydon just to access school choice, she said. She has advised people against moving to Croydon to access private schools as a choice, she said.

As long as the public school agrees to accept the child, an individual agreement can be made for that family, Gallagher said.

In fact, the Newport School District plans to look into offering school choice for public schools at its next board meeting she said.

Newport School District is also planning to discuss not accepting outside students anymore because it no longer relies on outside school district tuition, Gallagher said, which could be a dilemma for Croydon.

There are currently about 60 students from fifth to 12th grade in the Croydon district.

Most of the students continue to go Newport Middle/High School.

But since ending the agreement with Newport, it has forged new agreements with multiple school districts and some private schools.

Five students have chosen schools outside of Newport including a student who attends a public school in Sunapee.

One student had already been attending Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, so the school district paid tuition this year to the private school. Tuition at the prep school is about $30,000.

Croydon uses the cost to send students to Newport as a guide. This year, it costs $15,000 per student to send a student to Newport, so Croydon paid half of the Kimball Union Academy student’s tuition this year.

The student is a senior, so it was a one-year benefit for the student’s family, who are Croydon taxpayers, according to Underwood.

Then there are three students who are attending Newport Montessori through the Croydon School District this year, Underwood said.

That school only goes up to the eighth grade. Tuition at the private Montessori school is $8,200 a year.
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