New Hampshire’s only scholarship organization is a California group called “The Alliance for the Separation of School and State.” In New Hampshire, it calls itself the “Network for Educational Opportunity,” but it’s the same group. They say their purpose is “ending government involvement in education.” In other words…privatizing public education.
The group helped write the education tax credit bill to do just that, move money from public to private schools. But even better, there was the prospect that they could make good money doing it.
The Alliance has always been a small budget operation, but it’s been getting smaller. It had almost $300,000 in donations in 2001, trailing off to less than half that a decade later.
But New Hampshire’s tax credit law was their turn-around opportunity. The law authorizes tax credits sufficient to fund $4 million in donations in the first year and $6 million in the second year. And this law that the group helped write allows the scholarship organization to take 10% out of the donations for administrative overhead.
So if the group raised the whole amount authorized, it could keep $400,000 in the first year and $600,000 in the second year – $1,000,000 over the first two years of the program. That’s pretty good money for a group who’s 2010 revenue was $135,000.
Overnight, the group has ballooned from a staff of 1 to listing a staff of 8. If all had gone well, they could have quadrupled their budget on donations subsidized by New Hampshire tax credits and been paid good money to move state funding from public to private schools.
But so far, it’s been a bust. New Hampshire businesses never did support the tax credit in the Legislature and now they are not supporting it either. After 7 months of fundraising, the group has raised no more than $140,000 in scholarship donations. And the deadline for this year is June 15.
So the program is probably a bust for this year. But this was a little group that came in from out-of-state else with no experience, staffed up quickly and hoped to expand fast. On the State’s nickel. What did we expect?
Why would this group have been considered credible for such an undertaking? Maybe because legislation was pieced together by legislators who wanted to get the government out of education (“The purpose of this act is to…allow maximum freedom to parents and nonpublic schools to respond to and, without governmental control, provide for the educational needs of children…”). They had a super-majority last year, so they got their way. There was none of the normal oversight or accountability in the bill.
Now, we are beginning – just beginning – to see the result. We have a little group with no experience in charge and they’re making hash of it. But it’s going to get worse as people read about the state tax credits funding donations to little religious schools teaching that dinosaurs and people roamed the earth at the same time.
This legislation was one reason the the voters gave us a new Legislature last November. And that was before they saw what a mess the tax credit program has become. Our senators should vote for repeal with the confidence that the voters will support their decision.