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Deal Possible to End N.H. Charter Moratorium

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The chairman of New Hampshire's board of education and a top state Republican lawmaker voiced cautious optimism Tuesday that they could reach a deal to end a controversial moratorium on charter schools by later this fall.

The board of education had voted last week to hold the line on new charters until state lawmakers appropriated $5 million to cover the costs of recently approved schools.

The board's move drew strong objections from charter school applicants who had spent many months planning the creation of new schools, and from some state lawmakers, who said panel's action was an overreaction.

But on Tuesday, state Rep. Kenneth Weyler, a Republican who chairs his chamber's finance committee, said he was confident that lawmakers would be able to find money for the charters in question and meet the board's concerns.

Weyler also chairs a joint fiscal committee, which he said has the power under state law to shift funding within the state's budget without a full act of the legislature—and thus could move the $5 million to meet charter school costs.

Weyler told Education Week that the fiscal commmittee is scheduled to meet in late October, and that he would arrange to have the committee approve the financial shift to support charters at that time. The lawmaker said he'd hoped the board would agree to lift the moratorium before the fiscal committee met.

Board chairman Tom Raffio, in an interview, said he is open to that deal, though he will recommend that the board of education wait to approve an agreement until after the fiscal committee actually votes to move the money.

"The proof is going to be in the pudding," Raffio said in an interview.

Legislators "all seem super-confident" that the funding will be provided, he said. "If they're that confident, all I'm looking for is that they codify that." The board chairman said he's "looking for ways to end the moratorium."

Raffio added that he hoped the fiscal committee would go a step further and provide some guarantee that the costs of future charter school growth, would also be covered, so that the state isn't squeezed financially again. He said he was not sure what the board would do if state lawmakers don't agree to that step. New Hampshire has 17 state-approved charters in operation, state officials said last week.

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