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UL Editorial on voucher repeal: Public schools: vs. public education

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We agree with nothing in this Union Leader editorial, but it’s useful to see the Union Leader state its case for private school vouchers. Here is the editorial, with our commentary:

One of the reasons New Hampshire has to continue debating school choice year after year is that self-proclaimed supporters of public education do not support public education. They support public schools.

There is your warning that this opinion piece is going to torture the language in order to assert that unaccountable, sectarian, private schools are “public education.”

Last year the Legislature passed a law to give businesses a tax credit for a portion of the money they donate to new educational scholarship programs. The scholarships must be offered to families with incomes lower than 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Students use the money to help pay for tuition at private schools.

The sponsors of last year’s bill have proposed a speed-up in the program’s growth and the removal the 300% income limit this year, just a taste of their original intentions for the program and what would have happened if the same folks were still in charge of the Legislature.

Democrats opposed the tax credit last year and are pushing to abolish it this year. House Education Committee Chairman Mary Stuart Gile told this newspaper last week, “My primary concern about education in New Hampshire is to support public education, and this program would divert business profits taxes and business enterprise taxes that go to the general fund and used to support public education.”

Nothing in that statement is true.

Actually, Rep. Gile’s statement is a concise, precise description of what is happening.

The scholarships do not divert money from public education. They are public education. Through them, the public partially funds a child’s education at a state-approved private school. To claim that the scholarships hurt public education, Gile and other opponents pretend that the money does not finance a state-approved education.

“State-approved?” While the state wants to ensure that there are no fires or child-molesters at New Hampshire private schools, that’s as far as it goes. You could be in the private school business over night – and many will be if the voucher bill stays in place. Many secular New Hampshire private schools are already in place teaching that dinosaurs and people roamed the earth together just a few thousand years ago. Voucher schools are unaccountable to New Hampshire tax payers for the curricula they teach.

Nor do the scholarships drain funding from government schools. The scholarships are capped by law at an average of $2,500 per pupil. The tax credit covers most, but not all, of that cost.

The tax credit pays for 93.5% of a business’s scholarship contribution. In essence, the business is spending the state’s money.

The average per-pupil expenditure at New Hampshire public schools was $13,413 last year, with slightly more than 35 percent, or $4,700, covered by the state.

The state general and education trust funds pay about 20% of the cost of education in New Hampshire.

The difference between the tax credit and what the state otherwise would pay for that student’s education remains with the state and can be used to enhance the funding of government schools.

“Government schools?” Is that something like a “reeducation camp?” The paper is way over its head in the weeds in its description of the financial impact of the voucher plan on public education. Suffice it to say, it just doesn’t work the way it is described here. Public education is the big loser when the State of New Hampshire gets into the business of offering vouchers to entice families to leave our public education system.

That is not defunding the public schools. It is buying a good education at a state-accredited school at a fraction of the cost of providing it through a government school. Opposition to this beneficial arrangement is driven by legislators whose loyalty is to government schools and their employees, not to parents, students or taxpayers.

Here the editorial ups the ante from “approved” to “accredited.” Just to be clear, the State of New Hampshire does not accredit the academic instruction provided by private schools that set up in the state. Many are very good. Some are famous. But they are not accredited by the State.

And the primary beneficiary of voucher programs is the small religious schools, often with just a few teachers and students, many of which teach a creationist curriculum that no New Hampshire tax payer should be required to support.

The Union Leader has strayed onto some pretty thin ice trying to defend private school vouchers in New Hampshire. In the end, the editorial demonstrates how hard it is to justify state support of private schools unaccountable to the taxpayers. A voucher plan does not extend the public education system to include private schools. It dismantles our public education system and leaves us with….nothing.

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