As we move toward repealing the ill-conceived New Hampshire voucher program, a pseudonymous commenter toward the bottom of this Patch thread encapsulated the debate this way:
All this focus on having “choices” makes me ask: why do taxpayers who are already providing a structure to educate every child in a given community need to also pay for additional choices based on nothing but the desire of the parent? I distinctly recall those who put this law in place two years ago telling us that churches and charities were the proper way to fund programs for “the poor.” Why is this different?
New Hampshire is one piece, but an important piece, of the national debate on privatization of public schools. Here is today’s New York Times on the occasion of the Indiana Supreme Court decision upholding the state’s voucher program, reviewing the national state of play in the push for vouchers in Republican dominated states:
“This movement is doing more than threaten the core of our traditional public school system,” said Timothy Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association. “It’s pushing a national policy agenda embraced by conservatives across states that are receptive to conservative ideas.”
But public school privatization is trench warfare on a state-by-state basis. Here is Kansas, turning back a voucher program, with each side making the familiar arguments:
The Kansas House defeated legislation on Monday that would create a school choice scholarship program funded by corporate donations.….“We are sacrificing their future because we are protecting a system,” said Kelley, an Arkansas City Republican.…“What we’re really talking about is diverting public funds to private or parochial schools,” said Rep. Nile Dillmore, a Wichita Democrat opposed to the measure.
A Senate panel ended hopes of private and religious schools that were pushing for Idaho to extend a tax break to people who donate to scholarships meant to defray the cost of tuition.
“The donor is going to profit off making this donation at the cost of the public,” Hill said. “That’s just not fair.”
Private, religious school officials who flew to Boise from northern Idaho for Tuesday’s hearing argued these scholarships would boost school choice for more students who wanted an alternative to the traditional public school classroom, but didn’t hail from families with the financial means to foot the bill.
Vouchers advance in lopsided Republican legislatures and are defeated in more balanced legislatures. We need to correct the errors our last Legislature.