New Hampshire politician raves about charter schools, votes to kill funding four minutes later

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A charter schools advocacy organization in New Hampshire has captured video showing Democrat Mary Stuart Gile, who chairs the education committee in the state’s House of Representatives, apparently changing her position on charter schools in a four-minute flash.

At issue was a short, Republican-sponsored appropriations bill that provides a mechanism for the funding of public charter schools.

“The amount necessary to fund chartered public school tuition payments…is hereby appropriated to the department from the education trust fund,” House Bill 299 reads.

Supporters of the charter school legislation want the state board of education to authorize and fund new charter schools. Previously, in 2012, the board had enacted a moratorium on new charter schools.

Opponents of the bill want to see the bill fail because they don’t want new charter schools to open.

In the YouTube video, Chairman Gile opens the hearing by requesting that committee members vote to retain HB 299 — which basically means to shelve it for a long time.

Gile paints herself as an enthusiastic advocate for school choice. She predicts that the House leadership has indicated that any charter school-related bill that makes it out of the Education committee will surely die at its next stop, the Finance committee.

Gile mentions another, related bill and urges the committee to give ample time to unknown entities “to study the charter school situation in New Hampshire.”

“Rather than see these two bills — especially the two relative to funding — go forward and possibly be killed in Finance,” argues Gile, “it would be better to keep them in committee, do a really comprehensive study, and send the bills forward” at a later, unintelligible date.

The vote to retain — read: shelve — the bill then failed.

Just a few minutes after pushing to retain the bill so that it could be saved, Gile voted against the actual bill to fund charter schools.

HB 299 passed in the House Education Committee by a vote of 11-8 (though someone in the YouTube video clearly says 10-9).

Don’t miss the last part of the video if you like to watch opponents of school choice endure the agony of defeat. 

In the last 30 seconds or so, the camera pans to the spectators viewing the legislative drama. According to text inserted into the YouTube video, the audience was composed almost entirely of charter school opponents. There was a representative from the Democratic governor’s office, for example. There were lobbyists from a powerful teachers union and a school boards association. Behind those lobbyists: more lobbyists.

None of them looked happy with the result of the vote. One got up immediately after the vote and left the room, slamming the door behind him with an angry thud.

“The moratorium seems to have been designed as a way to make the unions happy after they spent $1.3 million in New Hampshire in the last election cycle,” suggested Matt Southerton, director of the New Hampshire Center for Innovative Charter Schools.

Southerton uploaded the video onto YouTube.

House Bill 299 now heads to the House Finance Committee for another vote. If it clears that hurdle, the next step will be a vote in the full House.

Democrats currently control the New Hampshire House of Representatives by a fairly narrow margin.

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