“Good afternoon. For the record, I am Mary Stuart Gile and I represent Merrimack District 27, which includes Concord Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, & 7. I am the prime sponsor of HB 370-FN, an act repealing the education tax credit program. There are multiple reasons for doing so. Mine are as follows:
1. Constitutionality, The NH Constitution (Part I-Art 6 and Part II-Article 83) specifically prohibits public funds from going to religious schools. The Education Tax Credit program as enacted is dependent on revenue intended for the general fund as Business Profit Tax (BPT) or Business Enterprise Tax, (BET) and diverting it through an intermediary, non-profit, scholarship organization, to be used as tuition to private schools, out-of-district public schools and possibly religious schools. Currently, the constitutionality of the education tax credit/voucher is before the Superior Court with a decision anticipated in mid-April.
2. Fiscal impact – 3.4 million this year; 5.1 in 2014 and up to 135 million in a decade, given our current fiscal constraints, can NH communities afford this? And the $2500/student scholarship may sound tempting to parents but it falls far short of tuition for secular schools, which range from $5000/student to $25,000/student in NH.
3. Research – Studies over twenty years show no statistical difference in student achievement between students attending private school on vouchers and those in public schools. In fact public school students in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, DC outperformed students with vouchers when test scores were weighted to reflect socioeconomic level, race and disability. Further, in a 2011 audit report on Milwaukeeâ€˜s parental choice program, which is the nationâ€™s oldest, established in 1990, little difference was found in the achievement scores between students in the Cityâ€˜s private school voucher program and a matched sample attending Milwaukeeâ€˜s public schools. But the voucher program cost more per pupil.,
4. Accountability -Prior to the Education Tax Credit/voucher legislation, the BPT and BET went into the State Education Trust Fund and General Fund and were accountable to NH tax payers. There is absolutely no educational or fiscal accountability plan in the 2012 Education tax credit statute for any of this money to anyone!
5. History: The education tax credit is risky education policy and a poorly conceived piece of legislation that was initiated in 2011 by the Network for Educational Opportunity, (NEO), formerly known as the â€˜Alliance for the Separation of Schools and State.â€™
The Alliance or NEO was incorporated in California in 2000 as a non-profit organization and its current board of directors all reside outside of NH. NEOâ€™s stated purpose is â€˜provide and support a variety of educational programs and promulgate publications designed to increase public understanding and acceptance of school systems independent of government funding and control.â€™ Many of the Proclaimations asserted by NEO or the Alliance are particularly inflammatory regarding our Nationâ€™s public schools. The legislation creating NHâ€™s education tax credit was crafted in collaboration with NEO and introduced and passed in both the House and the Senate in 2012 .
After the legislation passed, NEO registered as a non-profit in NH in August, 2012 and is the only non-profit scholarship organization that has applied so far. Beyond their stated purpose, NEOâ€™s goals are to discredit and preferably dismantle public education. In their literature, this is because public schools are controlled by the government and subject to all the ills of government bureaucracy and power, including the â€˜use of force to secure their audience,â€™ (their language, not mine).
Obviously, NEO was unfamiliar with the fact that NH is a local control state, that while local, state and federal funds provide support for educational programs, decisions about accepting such funds, curriculum, teacher evaluation, student activities etc are all made by local school boards made up of community folks who dedicate their time to ensure that their students have the best education possible. Often at the same town meetings that have just been held around NH. Hardly big government
NEO/ Alliance promotes parent choice. NH parents already have choicesâ€¦publicly funded charter schools, including the Virtual learning Academy School which is a model for the country, home schooling , open enrollment schools, public schools and any combination of these. All of these opportunities are inclusive to students of all income levels, and learning styles and abilities. Public schools unlike private schools are not selective
NEO may also have been under the impression that NH students are behind others in the nation which is far from the truth. NH students in the most recent NAEP tests scored in the top ten in the country in mathematics and reading. NH is not a Mississippi, or Alabama or even a Louisiana.
Of Course thereâ€™s always room for improvement, but 20 years of research and data do not support vouchers or education tax credits as the way to improve student learning.
The education tax credit legislation was created by an organization from California that knew nothing about our education system, How it was funded or how it worked. They proposed a plan that disregards our commitment to funding an adequate education for every NH child and includes targeted funds for children receiving free and reduced lunch, and that students who meet specific criteria receive the support that they need.
And the irony in all of this is, as a non-profit organization registered in NH, there is nothing to stop NEO from raising funds and establishing a foundation to provide scholarships to anyone. It would take more time and the scholarships might be much smaller in amount, but they could do it, without taking money from NHâ€™s general fund and Education Trust Fund. There would be no limitations on how the scholarships were distributed and many of the religious schools could benefit.
In closing, I have served in this House for 17 years. In December, 2012, I was appointed chair of the House Education Committee, which tells you that my primary concern is Education Policy in NH. I have been an educator for over 45 years, including 17 years in the classroom, preK-college, (all income groups); 16 years as a consultant with the NH Dept of Education in ECE and Title 1,ESEA; ( state-wide responsibilities and parent involvement); 6 years as VP for Education and Development for the AAS (gifted and talented)and chair and professor of Early Childhood Education at NHTI, Concordâ€™s Community College. I have three degrees including a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Vanderbilt University. I am also a Mother of 4 adult children and 2 adult grandchildren, (all graduates of Concordâ€™s public schools, with some private school and home schooling as well). I am a parent, an educator and an advocate for public education. History has proven that with all its challenges, our Nationâ€™s commitment to public education is what has made America, the greatest Nation in the World.
Lastly, our primary responsibility as legislators is to ensure that our public schools and the students who attend them are receiving the best education that we can provide and the financial assistance as required by current law, which includes adequacy funding, catastrophic aid, vocational education tuition, transportation and building aid. These are our priorities. It does not make sense to continue a program where we voluntarily decrease state revenue collection in business taxes. We cannot ask our local communities to absorb any more loss of funding and we should not continue a program that so far has proven of no educational value.
Madam Chair, and Honorable Senate Colleagues, the education tax credit is bad legislation that we simply cannot afford. I hope you will support the House of Representatives majority vote of OTP on HB 370. Thank you.