Gary Patton strikes again, with his facts straight, as always:
April 23 — To the Editor:
State Sen. Nancy Stiles recently joined 12 other Senate Republicans to table HB 370, which would have repealed the school voucher law. Much will be made by Republicans that the Senate just tabled it; they didn’t kill the bill. However, just as a majority of 13 senators was needed to table the bill, so a majority of 13 will be needed to remove it from the table. As long as Stiles and the other Republican senators remain unified in opposition, the bill will never see the light of day and might as well be dead.
Reasons to repeal the school voucher law abound. First, the law violates the N.H. Constitution by giving public tax money to private and religious schools. For that reason, the law is under court challenge by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union. Second, unlike public schools, the private schools given this money aren’t accountable to taxpayers for their performance. We give them tax money, but they don’t have to tell us how they use it or if it helped.
Third, public schools must accept all students, including those with special needs. Although private schools take public tax money from everyone, they accept only the students they want. Fourth, the public tax money used for private school vouchers means less money for public schools and weakens them. Fifth, students already attending private schools are applying for these vouchers. If they can already afford private schools, why do they need more money, particularly public tax money?
Finally, public education is unique. It brings together students of all faiths, races, socioeconomic levels and cultures. It affords children the chance to learn about others different from themselves and to come to understand, befriend and respect them. This learning process is necessary in this diverse nation to bind many different people into a coherent, cooperative, and productive whole.
Stiles’ vote is particularly regrettable because she voted against the school voucher bill before the 2012 election, but now has flip-flopped and voted for it. In doing so, she mislead those voters who voted for her in part because of her stance against school vouchers. Before her retirement, Nancy Stiles was the food director for the Hampton public schools. Given her background, it is especially disappointing to see her turn her back on public education.
However, fortunately, things are never quite over in politics. Unlike the state Senate, the State House voted to repeal the school voucher bill. The state Senate and State House will likely form a conference committee to iron out their differences on this bill. There is still time for Sen. Stiles and the Senate Republicans to correct what is an obvious mistake and repeal the school voucher law.