The Concord Monitor gets it right on the voucher tax credit law:
It’s not every day that the attorney general and the governor find themselves publicly at odds over important state policy, but it happened this week – and thank goodness.
At issue is a 2012 law that set up a tax credit program for businesses, essentially rewarding them for donating money to a fund that provides “scholarships” to help some children attend religious or other private schools, receive home-schooling or attend a public school outside their home district. Controversial from the get-go, the program was approved by the Legislature over the veto of then-Gov. John Lynch.
A superior court judge ruled last summer that the program could not be used to support religious school education. And this week Gov. Maggie Hassan weighed in, filing a brief encouraging the state Supreme Court to uphold the lower court ruling – in opposition to the attorney general’s office, which is defending the law.
“The governor treasures the diversity of private schools in our state, and fully appreciates their contributions to tolerance and learning. But the decision to contribute to a private religious school is a personal decision. It should not be supported by the state’s tax structure, and it should not have the effect of diverting scarce taxpayer dollars from crucial public needs,” Hassan said in her brief.
She’s right. The Supreme Court should do as the governor suggests. And, beyond that, the Legislature should pull the plug on the entire program.
read the rest here:Editorial: Education tax credit program should be repealed | Concord Monitor.
The Governor’s brief along with those of the others you cite must owe a bundle of thanks to your leadership in challenging the vouchers’ constitutionality. Must be gratifying to see this magnitude of support for the early position you had taken on the issue!
Since there may be others like myself who have not followed the controversy from its outset, I think an answer to the following, purely theoretical questions might also be useful:
If the tax credit program were to be amended to exclude public support for attending private schools, would there be any legal basis left to challenge the other two stated uses of the scholarships? If not, what are the policy arguments for opposing such a restriction to those options, assuming they would still be of interest to proponents of the program?
I believe that some parents – struggling to see through the dust raised in partisan battles over the “choice” issue – are genuinely searching for meaningful opportunities to direct the education of their children in accordance with their traditional rights and values. What can be said to these parents as they continue their search following the potential repeal of the tax credit program?
The first thing to be said to those parents is “get involved in your schools,” right? There could be a role for public school choice but, while a few kids benefit, it still leaves behind schools that should be funded and fixed instead. (Forget the “competition” meme…it’s well established at this point as not real.)
But the practical problem is that the amounts of money involved per student ($2,500) in the voucher program are too small to make a difference in the tuitions that would be involved ($14,600, for instance). And the whole circuitous funding mechanism set up by the the NH law to try to get around the Constitution would not be worth maintaining in any case.
I think you are being generous with your characterization of the funding mechanism as “circuitous.” And I essentially agree with everything you’ve said. There remains a huge challenge, however, for parent involvement, especially in large schools and districts that have not figured out how to create or maintain a sense of community where meaningful dialogue is possible.
…And, I might add, there is also much that can be said for a diversity of educational opportunities – not for the sake of “competition” surely, but for overall enrichment of the culture. Isn’t the assurance of such diversity in the public interest and not merely a luxury that efficiency and standardization would predictably seek to override? Either/or is for logicians. We need to have it both ways: unity of purpose and diversity of paths to its fulfillment. And then there is the Common Core….!