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Tom Southworth says, “Vote YES on HB 370 – repealing the Education Tax Credit”

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Here is Tom Southworth’s testimony to the  House Ways and Means committee on January 31 in support of voucher repeal.

My name is Tom Southworth from Dover, NH.  I am here today as an educator and NH taxpayer in support of the repeal of SB 372.  This bill does not fit New Hampshire.  It diverts state funds to private and parochial schools at a time when there are deep holes in the state’s budget.  Funds have been cut from critical areas such as special education, school building aid, the CHINS program, and state universities.  It will be challenging to restore these funds and that challenge will be greater if an increasing amount of money is given to non-public schools.

I have studied SB 372 thoroughly and have outlined some of its flaws.

Need for Scholarship Program

  • Many private and parochial schools already offer need-based financial aid to their students.  Churches also sponsor students from their parishes.  How will the state’s Scholarship figure into the financial aid calculations?  Would the state scholarship simply reduce the student’s aid from the non-public schools?
  • Many public schools do not accept tuition students.  If so, the per student cost can range from $7,000 to $15,000 or higher. Can public schools accept scholarship money that is designated for an individual student?
  • The idea of establishing scholarships for students with financial needs is appealing, but it does not need legislation.  Funds could be raised from businesses and individuals who could take charitable deductions.  The scholarship organization could distribute the funds equitably to students based on verifiable family finance information.  There would be no need for state involvement and no need for a business tax credit.
  • If parochial schools are found to be ineligible for this program, the higher costs of private and  public schools may be too great for students needing significant financial assistance.

Timelines

  • The timelines of the bill are impractical.  Most non-public schools complete the admission process in the winter and select students by spring.  Registration fees and first term tuition payments are then due.  In this bill the scholarship awards would not be determined until the summer after families have made a commitment.
  • Public schools pass their budgets in March and offer staff contracts in April.  Schools would not find out about reduced adequacy aid until September.  If a school system lost 20 students, that year’s revenue could be reduced by over $80,000. That reduction could have a negative impact on the school’s ability to fund its programs.
  • Some of the NH school systems that have the greatest financial need might be the ones that lose students and get reduced adequacy grants

Accountability

  • Students attending non-public schools are not required to take standard assessments such as the NECAP.  It will be difficult to objectively monitor student progress and the success of the scholarship program.  The survey (as described in the bill) does not provide a high level of accountability.

Expansion of the Program

After the first two years, the program can expand up to 25% per year. This table shows the potential loss of millions of dollars in state revenue.

Year

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

$ in millions

3.4

5.1

6.4

8.0

10.0

12.5

15.6

19.5

24.3

30.4

Cumulative Total

3.4

8.5

14.9

22.9

32.9

45.4

61.0

80.5

104.8

135.2

Incentive

  • One troubling aspect of this bill is that it initially targets 70% of the scholarship funds to students who leave the public schools.  Why?  It seems that the state is sending the wrong message. Is one of the bill’s goals to reduce the number of children in public schools and therefore save money on adequacy grants? It would seem to be more important to pass legislation that strengthens the public schools.

I encourage state representatives to vote YES to repeal SB 372.  The bill moves New Hampshire in the wrong direction.  The proposed loss of state revenue in this bill will further downshift the cost of education to local taxpayers. Once the bill is repealed, scholarship organizations can move forward without state involvement.  Immediate repeal would also save the cost of future lawsuits.

Thank you for your attention.

Tom Southworth

Dover, NH


1 Comment

  1. An astute and compelling analysis of the flaws and lack of fiscal accountability other school voucher bill.

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