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The New Hampshire private school voucher program may be dead for this year

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Now that the Strafford Superior Court has said that the tax credit voucher program cannot fund religious schools, the program is left in limbo.  The Network for Educational Opportunity (NEO) is the only active New Hampshire scholarship organization accepting applications, but a Concord Monitor story today reports that NEO has only 100 applicants who are currently attending public schools.

Based on court documents and the Monitor story, probably 30% of those applicants – 30 kids – want to go to secular or home schools.  But, as I discussed in my Sunday opinion piece, 7 out of 10 vouchers must go to students leaving public schools.  So if the program has 30 public school applicants who want to go to secular or home schools, the total size of the program could be only about 42 students.

The Monitor piece says, based on its interview with NEO staffer Kate Baker, that,

“Baker is sticking with her original plan to announce scholarships next month.”

However, a website called “Choice Media – education reform homepage” has posted this from an interview with Baker:

“So Baker is in an usual situation.  If July 30th arrives and there’s still no clue when or even if the state Supreme Court will hear the case, does she award scholarship money to parents and limit them to only secular schools on the approved list, or delay the program in protest until the matter is resolved, while some kids get further behind?

“I have several different contingency plans for what I can do.  I can award scholarships still.  But I’m very concerned because of the number of children that this ruling does impact of my thousand applicants, it is a lot.  And it’s my entire mission to help these families overcome the barriers to choice.  To be able to make the best choice for their families.  And now I’m limiting choices?  To me that just, it totally defeats my purpose.”

I think we’re seeing the program get put on the shelf for this year, as it should be.

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