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Home » Vouchers » Implementation » Why do you keep after the New Hampshire voucher program? Won’t it just die on the vine? (Answer: It’s a bad seed.)

Why do you keep after the New Hampshire voucher program? Won’t it just die on the vine? (Answer: It’s a bad seed.)

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We have a lower court decision saying that New Hampshire’s voucher tax credit program can’t fund religious schools, where most of the money would have gone, and the Supreme Court may well agree.

Business and public school parents have shown little interest in the program, though it’s hard to know how much of that is a result of the controversy.

There’s only one active scholarship organization to collect donations and hand out the money and, without the capacity to run a publicly funded program, it probably won’t be able to do much with the program.

So why keep after it? Why not let it just die on the vine or trundle along getting a little money to some families who could use it?

It’s true, the voucher program is not worth all the air time it takes up.  Education funding, the role of charter schools in the State, support for early childhood development, the State’s role in the current education reform debates – these are all much more important topics.

And doing a better job educating our low income students, as the voucher program purports to do, is an important topic.  But the voucher program has proved a random and unsystematic way to do that.  Giving money to a group that helped write the law (“We want as many students as possible out of the ‘system’”) to select a small number of children to go to unaccredited religious schools is not a solution to that problem.  There are many more purposeful and direct ways to help low income families get better educations for their children.

However, the voucher law will not go away by itself.  It may continue to function even if the Supreme Court agrees that it cannot fund religious schools.  Supporters assert that the kind of slow start we are seeing here has been the normal experience in other states and that the program will grow large over time.  Any future legislature could expand the program overnight but even with no attention at all it will grow automatically if it gets enough use.

There is no legitimate public purpose for this law, no public support, no state oversight for the money and now we’ve had an opportunity to see the result of this kind of ill-conceived legislation.  There is no reason to leave this kind of failed program in place.


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