Here’s my letter in yesterday’s Herald in response to this letter:
I would like to respond to the March 20 letter from Arlene Quaratiello because it was a pretty complete presentation of the points made by supporters of the education tax credit program.
The letter says that competition from the program would force schools and teachers to improve in order to “retain students who would not have to settle for the mediocrity that a monopolistic school system creates.”
This is important because it gets at the real goal of the tax credit program. Supporters consider our public education system a “government monopoly” that needs to be dismantled and privatized. And, as Ms. Quaratiello says, privatization is cheaper. Just send the kids to private schools with a $2,500 scholarship rather than paying $13,000 to your local public school.
So if you are a voter or legislator who wants to replace your local public school with a cheaper private school, probably a religious school, the education tax credit is the way to do it.
A second key point supporters make is that the law “has not even had a chance to prove itself.” Translated, this argument actually says, “Leave the law in place until it would be politically difficult to end it.”
But in reality, the program has failed before its first student has received a scholarship. The program has stimulated the formation of only one “scholarship organization” to raise the millions of dollars in tax credit-funded donations and distribute the money to schools. That’s a California group called the Alliance for the Separation of School and State that came here to help write the bill and says its mission is “ending government involvement in education.”
In New Hampshire, the group calls itself the Network for Educational Opportunity. Last year, it had one staffer, a $135,000 budget and no education, finance or operating history. But it gets to keep for overhead 10 percent of the donations it raises. That would be a $1 million windfall in the first two years, if it successfully raised all the donations authorized by the law.
How did we get into a position where donations funded by New Hampshire business tax credits would support this out-of-state group whose purpose is to move money from our public schools to private schools?
But the program hasn’t worked because New Hampshire business don’t support that goal. Businesses are on the other side of the issue, working with all the schools in the state to prepare our work force for the future. The Business and Industry Association, our statewide chamber of commerce, took no position on the bill last year and, now, businesses are not contributing.
After seven months of fund-raising, the scholarship organization has raised only $140,000, most of it from one donor.
There is no need to wait to see if the program works. It has failed right out of the box. It has no legitimate public purpose. The only group involved has made hash of it. New Hampshire business is not interested. Voters have never supported it.
The education tax credit is an embarrassment to the state, and the Senate should vote repeal the program before it begins to do real damage.