Here’s my letter in today’s Portsmouth Herald, responding to a letter from a voucher supporter a few days ago.
Sept. 16 — To the Editor:
Arlene Quaratiello said in her angry defense of the voucher tax credit program (Sept. 16 letter), that I am responsible for the lack of public support. I would just point out that, 2-1, public school parents have opposed using state money to send children to private schools. That’s the real reason that, out of 1,000 scholarship applicants, so few came from public school families.
New Hampshire businesses never supported the program, either. They help New Hampshire’s public schools every day, but the Business and Industry Association took no position on vouchers, and businesses didn’t testify in support of the program. It is no surprise that they do not contribute now.
And there is no question that the Network for Educational Opportunity has violated the voucher law (details at www.anhpe.org), as program reports will make this clear at the end of the year.
But do you notice in Ms. Quaratiello’s letter how nothing is ever NEO’s fault? The lack of support from parents and business is my fault. It’s the state agency’s fault if NEO violated the law. Then, of course, NEO is burdened by the bad ruling from a “liberal judge” who read the N.H. Constitution pretty much as anyone would, as prohibiting funding of religious schools.
Actually, though, NEO’s numerous problems highlight how poorly written the law is. Virtually any nonprofit that applies is automatically approved as a scholarship organization after a couple of basic checks. And once a group is authorized, the law provides no way for the state to prevent it from misappropriating money or breaking program rules.
So, NEO, a group with no capacity to run this kind of publicly funded program, is a qualified scholarship organization, fully authorized to act independently. NEO’s errors will probably cost the state less than $50,000 this year because, fortunately, its program is so small. But a larger program operated the same way could cost the state millions in unbudgeted general fund dollars.
NEO has made so many mistakes that it may well not get authorized to participate next year, but that after-the-fact punishment is the only remedy available under this ill-conceived tax credit law.
The N.H. Supreme Court may well end the program (a ruling on the appeals may come by spring) but, one way or another, vouchers are a failed experiment that needs to be ended.
Advancing New Hampshire