Advancing New Hampshire Public Education

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New Hampshire education at the school choice crossroads

The national debate about the future of American public education has landed in New Hampshire with full force. We have always seen our public schools as a community asset serving everyone. Now, more and more, there are those who argue it should really be everyone for her or himself – that we should replace our system of public schools with a marketplace of private choice in which each family constructs its own education system.

Our New Hampshire public schools have always served all  “our kids,” as Harvard scholar and New Hampshire resident Professor Robert Putnam puts it. Our schools lead the country in student achievement and innovation.  However, that commitment to high quality public education for all students may be changing. We may be on the road to replacing public education as we have known it with a system of publicly-funded individual parental choices.

There are many signs of this showing up at the New Hampshire Board of Education (here’s a backgrounder on how to communicate with the state board), in the Legislature and in local school board meetings, but they may not be easily visible or understandable from a distance.  So ANHPE will promote as full a discussion and understanding of this contest of visions as possible so that people can weigh in knowledgeably.  We will present the information as straightforwardly as possible in “top line” form, but will also drill down to understand the rest of the background when you might need it to take action.

We will present information factually but we are not neutral on the issue.  New Hampshire has the opportunity to continue to invest in moving our schools from the industrial model we’ve inherited to what our students need to be prepared for family, civic and work life in the 21st century.

Or we can be moved, in big visible steps or smaller, incremental, less visible steps, toward an individualized, market based school choice system in which each parent is responsible to cobble together an education system for each child.  This is a vision in which our district schools would become just one a la carte choice among many –  an online software company, a voucher-funded private school or home school, a charter school or a traditional district school.

New Hampshire has a choice to make – neighborhood schools for “our kids” or an education marketplace in which every family is on its own.  You can read about the great work our neighborhood schools are doing at Reaching Higher NH.  Here at ANHPE, we will continue to support the diligent work our parents and education are doing, but our primary focus will to provide opportunities to weigh in on the school choice discussion that is so critical at this moment.

Union Leader: Senate passes bill to kill tax on interest, dividends

This is interesting.  While the House is considering HB 1686 to draw on the interest and dividend tax as a large source of additional funding for the Education Tax Credit program (the original voucher program, established in 2012 but never gaining the support it needed through donations from the New Hampshire business community), the Senate is bringing forward a bill to abolish that tax.  Here is the report in the Union Leader: (more…)

HB 1492 to modify the manifest educational hardship statute has been killed for this session

The House Education Committee today sent the bill to interim study.

Here’s the big picture on SB 193, the voucher bill

We understand that the House Finance Committee is likely to amend SB 193 to limit the bill’s impact on the state budget.  One result will be that local property tax payers will bear the full burden of sending students to private and home schools.  The other is that New Hampshire will have begun an inevitable multi-year process of expanding a second voucher program, as is happening with the first one from 2012.

Here, from the Washington Post, is a glimpse of the national drum to which local sponsors of SB 193 are marching: (more…)

Concord Monitor: N.H. school choice bill could create ‘tax shelter’ for rich

SB 193, the voucher bill currently under consideration by the House Finance Committee, is not the only school choice bill in the legislature right now.  HB 1492 proposes to enable parents to send their children to any public school at local taxpayer expense.

And HB 1686 would significantly expand sources of funding for New Hampshire’s original voucher program, established by the 2012 Education Tax Credit bill, from businesses paying the business profits tax to any individual paying New Hampshire tax on interest and dividends.

If both SB 193 and HB 1686 passed, both vouchers could be added together, creating much larger annual grants for home or private schooling. (more…)

HB 1686 would be a dramatic expansion of New Hampshire’s original 2012 voucher program

The New Hampshire legislature has worked for years to make New Hampshire, according to the preamble of a 2011 bill, “the best and most attractive legal environment in the nation for trusts and fiduciary services, an environment that will continue to attract to our state good-paying jobs.”  The Granite State is now what the Wall Street Journal (reported by the New Hampshire Business Review) called “a kind of mini-Switzerland for wealthy Northeast families.”

The dozens of trust companies flocking to New Hampshire generate substantial interest and dividend income subject to New Hampshire tax.  School choice advocates have written HB 1686 to siphon as much of that tax revenue as possible off into grants to subsidize home and private schools. (more…)

SB 193 participation rates will be higher than supporters assert

Under the SB 193 eligibility criteria, there is nothing to keep the program from growing large quickly. The 2012 ETC program, with much more restrictive eligibility requirements, already has a waiting list of 1,800, over 1% of the students in New Hampshire public schools. (more…)

The Finance Committee should recommend ITL on SB 193

SB 193 would require local school districts to use their limited adequacy grants to subsidize home and private school costs.  The current version of the bill requires that, beyond a certain point, the State’s General Fund would reimburse the the school districts for those grants, making SB 193 a substantial and growing part of the state budget.

There are many fundamental policy problems with the bill, but here are some of the fiscal issues the Finance Committee should consider in its current analysis: (more…)

The impact of SB 193 on the General Fund will, under any assumptions, larger than the Legislature will accept

Advocates for and against SB 193 will over the next weeks debate participation rates and the other assumptions that drive the financial impact of SB 193.  However, our analysis is that, even under the most conservative assumptions, the impact of SB 193 on the General Fund will be so large that SB 193 will not make good on its promise to limit the damage to local school districts.  In the end, school districts would be left with most of the bill.

Here’s why.

We’ve done this analysis of the “Potential Impact of SB 193 on the New Hampshire General Fund,” assuming very low participation rates.  This surely is not the last word.  Various factors could change as the Finance Committee analyzes the bill in greater depth and agencies provide more data.   However, the broad basics of the bill are clear from the Potential Impact spreadsheet.

If the SB 193 program started out with a 1% participation rate, less than the current waiting list for the Education Tax Credit program, and grew over 5 years to a only a 2% participation rate, less than in any of the comparison states, SB 193 would have funded almost 13,000 students and spent tens of millions of dollars from the General Fund.  (more…)

Outsourcing decision making to an independent scholarship organization increases the risk to the General Fund.

It is unusual, under any circumstances, for New Hampshire to consider outsourcing the administration of a huge new program such as the ESA initiative to an outside entity, especially one about which the State has no detailed information. However, the possibility is especially concerning in the case of SB 193. (more…)

SB 193 grants concentrated in a few communities will cost New Hampshire even much more that distributing them evenly

If the ESA grants were distributed equitably throughout the state, the General Fund impact would be relatively low.  But if the ESA grants are concentrated in a relatively few communities, the call on stabilization funds will be much higher. The table below shows the impact.

If the participation rate is only 1% and the grants are spread evenly to all 176 school districts throughout the State, the districts pay most of the cost out of their 1/4%. If, just for illustration purposes, the grants all went to the 5 largest high need communities in which the ETC has concentrated its work, the General Fund impact is very large, as shown in the table. (more…)