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There is a broad campaign afoot to undermine support of public schools – Kathy Sullivan in the Union Leader

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Don’t miss this!  Kathy Sullivan weighs in on the assault on New Hampshire’s public schools:

The most important job of government is to insure that the next generation is educated. It isn’t just because it is the right thing to do for kids, it also is the right thing for society, to preserve and protect our national security, insure a thriving economy and continue the tradition of American leadership. To do the job, we need a strong public school system.

That concept should not be difficult to grasp, and at one time it was promoted by people of all political stripes. Unfortunately, the idea that a strong public school system is important is under siege.

There are several threats to public schools. One is from the neglect caused by elected officials who are more interested in their tax-cutting records than they are in education (see, e.g., Ted Gatsas, mayor of Manchester). Another is from the far right, which has a palpable contempt for public education.

The far right insists on calling public schools “government schools,” as if President Obama was personally running Stalinist-style indoctrination centers across the country. Actually, some of them in their paranoia actually do feel that way, as evidenced by some of the comments you can find regarding public schools.

They are aided and abetted in their quest by less paranoid, “conservative” Republicans, who have been seeking ways to divert tax dollars to private schools and religious schools as a way of providing school choice. A few years ago, the suggested method was vouchers, which never made it very far. Now, the method is a more complicated system which gives businesses tax credits for contributing to scholarship programs to send children to private or religious schools. It isn’t just New Hampshire; this idea is being promoted nationally.

I have nothing against religious schools; I am the product of an excellent Catholic grammar school and Catholic college (a fact which might make some of those radical Republicans think twice about supporting religious schools, but I digress). But I have a problem with the use of tax dollars to fund religious schools, and that is what tax credits do.

These schools already receive tax-exempt status as non-profit organizations. Companies that want to donate scholarship dollars already receive the benefit of charitable tax deductions. Giving them New Hampshire tax credits on top of the federal tax deductions they already benefit from gives these donors a most-favored status that donors to other non-profit organizations do not receive, while draining tax dollars from the public school system that is educating the majority of the state’s children.

Let these companies keep their tax deduction, but let’s not give them tax credits added on top. Why should donations to religious or private schools receive better treatment than, say, a donation to a library, a museum, a homeless shelter or a food bank? It doesn’t make sense.

And then there is the curriculum. I do not know if the conservative Republicans who are promoting the tax credit program really understand what is being taught in some of the religious schools actively seeking funding from the program. If they did, they would find out that these schools are not just using tax-credit receipts to teach religion (despite our state constitutional prohibition against funding religious education). Some of these schools teach politics wrapped in a religious aura, and it is a far, far, far right view of the world not based in reality.

One school in Dover that encourages the use of these tax credit scholarships teaches a warped view of both public schools and the United States government. Its web site states that the true goal of public education is the engineering of a citizen who parrots “a socialistic, centralized, Statist, relativistic world-view.” Christian education, however, is a bulwark and lightning rod “for all society against the relentless expansionism of the total State.”

With all due respect, why are tax credits being used to promote any political agenda, let alone a fundamentally paranoid view that our country’s government is evil? If parents want to teach their kids that kind of stuff, they can do it on their own time or their own nickel. We don’t have to help pay for it.

Actually, if they think government is that bad, isn’t it just a little hypocritical to accept funding through a government voucher … excuse me, tax credit program?

The Legislature has an opportunity to end this tax credit program. If companies want to donate, they can do so; ending the tax credit program doesn’t prevent anyone from writing a check. The New Hampshire House of Representatives has voted to end the program; let us hope the Senate will join suit.

Kathy Sullivan is a Manchester attorney and member of the Democratic National Committee. She was chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1999-2007.

via Kathy Sullivan: There is a broad campaign afoot to undermine support of public schools.


13 Comments

  1. Read some history. You will find that many of our earliest settlers came to this country to escape UNIFORM government schools. Google “Acts of Uniformity” in England during the 1500’s. This is why our earliest states created very decentralized district systems or local control of schools. The federal government was given no authority over education, again to protect against interference in our schools.

    Yet the federal government is now using our tax money to implement a national curriculum via Common Core Standards, which eliminates the voice of parents in their communities as well as local control of our schools.

    If the federal government got out of our schools and local control was restored, there would be no need for vouchers, tax credit scholarships or charter schools. Parents would finally have a voice. The diversity and innovation of individual communities would flourish through their unique public schools.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      We had a great presentation from the NHDOE yesterday, Doris, on just that topic – how New Hampshire is implementing Common Core in the New Hampshire way, with local control, right down to the teacher level. Common Core doesn’t dictate curriculum, just sets standards for what the kids should be able to do, leaving us to do it our way.

  2. Common Core is the opposite of local control. “Top down” uniform national standards, assessments & data tracking ensures far less local involvement. There were no local meetings, public input or debate about Common Core. It was the decision of four unelected members of the NH Board of Education to accept Common Core.

    If a district thinks opt-outing out of Common Core is in the best interests of its students, all its state and federal funding will be withheld jeopardizing its school budget. This idea of government by “expert” bureaucrats is not consistent with local control.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      It seems to me that NH has made Common Core a resource to local control.

      • Dennis Taylor says:

        Bill:

        Set us free from having to support your public system and pay to homeschool our kids through our cost of losing one parent’s income to do so. Give us back most of the tax money that is forced from us and we will do a better job of educating our kids for less money.

        By the way, are you against political speach by teachers in the classroom, and if so, what are you doing to either make all such speach stop, or to broaden the political spectrum in the classroom? Any moves to hire more conservative teachers???

        • Bill Duncan says:

          I think I remember the “set us free” argument from when we were debating health care reform…as in, “I don’t need health insurance. I’ll take care of my own health.” So there is a whole line of thought like that. I just don’t think it’s the basis for having a country.

  3. A resource would be something a district could utilize or ignore without adverse consequences.

    Districts are being blackmailed with state and federal tax dollars to implement Common Core Standards.

    What would be the fiscal impact to your school budget if New Castle decided not to implement Common Core Standards?

  4. Teacher says:

    Common Core is Communist Core, straight from Robert Muller’s World Core Curriculum. Everyone should home school their kids, and ignore the government, as the government has lost the right to school our children thanks to extremists such as Sullivan and Duncan.

  5. Kristin says:

    Do not totally ignore these “old-school” proponents who cannot see that institutionalized education largely fails the masses. It does not matter to them that alternative schools are highly successful; they want control, plain and simple. If every child cannot get an excellent education, then no child should — and, more importantly, they don’t want to lose philosophical and financial control.

    The author of this article was merely projecting her own biases against conservatives (as though liberals don’t have enough of a strong-hold by controlling the public schools where the vast majority of students go. No, she has to begrudge any sign of “conservatism” in — get this — private and home-schools.) These people are very dangerous and must be watched and monitored. Let’s continue to share and educate parents and help them against those who sincerely believe that they care more about their children than they do.

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