When the New Hampshire House reconvenes on January 3, one of the first bills they will take up will be a direct assault on our longstanding commitment to public education in the Granite State.
The House will take up SB 193, a bill that would establish “Education Freedom Savings Accounts” otherwise known as school vouchers.
These vouchers will rob tens of millions of dollars from our public schools to pay for tuition to select private and religious schools or given directly to parents who homeschool their children.
There are many problems with this bill:
- Students leave with our money, but school costs remain on taxpayers. If one or two children leave a school with several hundred students, the building needs to be heated, and you need a teacher in every classroom, but now you have between $7-$16,000 less to pay for it. The only solution is to reduce the quality of education or raise local property taxes.
- Stabilization grants mean taxpayers pay twice. One provision added to the bill to address this loss of funding was addition of stabilization grants. The state would reimburse school districts for lost revenue when the impact is more than ¼ of 1% of a district’s budget. Some examples: Manchester would be on the hook for the first $432,000 before the stabilization grant kicks in; For Keene that number would be $169,000; and, and for Hillsboro-Deering that figure would be $62,046. For every student beyond that, taxpayers would be required to pay out the voucher to the parents and pay out the stabilization money to the school district. The most likely source of this money is the Statewide Education Property Tax.For a complete list of towns and the fiscal impact of his proposed legislation see this analysis by Reaching Higher New Hampshire Education Fund.
- The costs are potentially limitless. New Hampshire has a school voucher program funded by voluntary contributions from businesses who receive a tax credit. Under SB 193 anyone making less than $73,800 for a family of four would be eligible. Once applicants get a voucher they will be eligible every year after that, as long as they meet the income threshold and their child has not graduated. If the state issues 1000 vouchers the first year, the second year taxpayers will be on the hook for those plus any new ones that are issued — into infinity. That will add up quickly.
- It is unconstitutional. New Hampshire has an explicit clause in its constitution that forbids the use of public money to support religious schools. People may argue that because the money is being laundered by a foundation through these “Education Freedom Savings Accounts” that makes it OK. But let’s be real. When you pay your tax bill to your town it is very likely it will be used to pay tuition to a Catholic School. In fact, the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which is a national organization founded by a Wal-Mart heir and a hedge fund manager, partners heavily with Catholic school districts around the country.
The bottom line? This is a terrible bill. It harms and undermines New Hampshire’s highly regarded public education system and it is fiscally irresponsible.
Please contact your state representatives and tell them to kill this awful bill. You can find their contact information here.