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Voucher day in NH: Reports, memos and an update on the court case

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NEO’s report on this year’s vouchers

The annual report from the scholarship organizations authorized under New Hampshire’s voucher tax credit law were due on December 1st.  We’ve got only one, the Network for Educational Opportunity.  Here, on the NHDRA  web site, is its report.

The short of it is that NEO gave vouchers to 103 students, the majority of whom were home schoolers.

But the real news is that NEO reports that it could find only 13 public school students to give vouchers to.  But what vouchers they got!  Here’s a sample:

  • $11,800 to go to Beech Hill School
  • $8,850 to go to Pine Hill Waldorf School
  • $4,375 to go to Sant Bani School
  • $5,000 to go to the Kimball Union Academy
  • $12,000 each for two kids to go to Liberty Harbor Academy
  • $5,900 to go to Proctor Academy
  • $12,000 to go to Tilton School
  • $6,165 each to go to Meeting House Montessori

In order to get the numbers up, NEO gave between $100 and $280 to 56 home schooled kids and $625 each to lots more.

What’s going on here?  How can NEO giving a few bucks to so many and big bucks to so few?  Easy – just don’t read the law.

It’s too long and boring to go into, but back last summer I saw from quotes in the press that NEO was “misunderstanding” the law.  I emailed NEO and all it’s friends who sponsored the legislation, but they didn’t want to hear about it, so I filed a complaint with the New Hampshire Department of Revenue.  That led to lots of conversations with the very good folks there but, given the sloppy way the way the law was written, there was nothing they could do to stop NEO.

But.

A memo from the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration saying NEO got it wrong

After releasing NEO’s report today, NHDRA also released what it called a Technical Information Release that agreed with my complaint that NEO was misapplying, let’s call it, the 70% rule in the law.  So in the future, 70% of the students will have to come from public schools, instead of giving 70% of the money to public school students, as NEO did.  That was a pretty hard mistake for NEO to make but they managed it.

That’s why so see all those high scholarships listed above, together with very low scholarships for others.  To pump up the numbers and use as much of their small voucher fund as possible, they had to find public school students and give them a lot of money to go to expensive schools and balance that by giving small amounts to others.

And here’s an update on the court case

The Strafford Superior Court decided in our favor in June and issued an injunction preventing the voucher program from funding religious schools.  That opinion has been appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  You can see everything about the case here.
Our opponents, the supporters of the voucher program, submitted their opening briefs to the New Hampshire Supreme Court on November 12.  (There were no new arguments, so I didn’t tell you about it.)
Our opening brief will be due on January 13 and our opponents have a month to respond.  Oral arguments will probably be held sometime in late winter or in the spring.

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