New Hampshire is unusual among tax credit voucher programs in how little accountability there is for the educational results of schools receiving the tuition subsidies. I made a detailed accountability proposal to Senator Stiles and others early on in the development of the bill but Republican leadership was not interested and the sponsors resisted strongly.
This lack of interest in accountability is true to the libertarian roots of the program but is very unusual among established voucher and tax credit programs:
- Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin require annual financial reporting from the schools. New Hampshire requires none.
- Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin require proof of financial viability. New Hampshire does not.
- Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin, Arizona and Florida require participation in standardized testing. New Hampshire does not.
- Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Arizona and Florida require public reporting of testing results. New Hampshire does not.
- Wisconsin and Florida perform independent evaluations. New Hampshire has no plans for evaluation.
Schools of widely varying quality tend to participate in voucher programs like New Hampshire’s under any circumstance, but that is all the more likely in this case where there is no accountability to assure that the State’s money is well spent.
One of the risks in addition to the fundamental quality of the curricula is that the State would pay for a form of politically infused Creationist instruction that, constitutionality aside, most voters would not willingly support. Here is a sampling of religious schools that could participate in New Hampshire’s voucher program. Here are quotes from the Creationist curricula taught in many New Hampshire religious schools. Here is a profile of the school, the Tri-City Academy of Somersworth, that was in the forefront of lobbying for the voucher bill and is actively recruiting its parent to apply for vouchers.
New Hampshire’s public charter schools are fully accountable to the State Board of Education and the Department of Education. As a result, the citizens of the State have transparent access to charter performance along side the performance of all New Hampshire schools (here) and can determine whether they feel their investment in charters is well spent.
Here is a graphic presentation of the recent results for the Milwaukee voucher program, the oldest in the country. The voucher schools did not performed as well as the troubled public school system.
New Hampshire voucher supporters have been determined to avoid this kind of scrutiny, but the benefits are obvious.