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Home » Bills » The House Education Committee will vote Tuesday on a version of SB 193, the voucher bill, that is revised but not improved

The House Education Committee will vote Tuesday on a version of SB 193, the voucher bill, that is revised but not improved

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Here is the SB193 2017-2523h that the House Education Committee will vote on (though amendments are possible during the committee meeting) in its Tuesday, November 14 meeting at 10:00 AM in LOB 206-208.  Committee members have made a number of changes over the past week but they still have a tangled bill that does not fund an adequate education for New Hampshire students.

No accountability or meaningful measurement of educational results

SB 193 projects an image of accountability but there is no reality behind it.  Any “nationally recognized standardized assessment” can be used to measure “achievement and growth.”  As difficult as those are to measure, as arguable as any conclusions will be, and as low a bar as the bill sets for achievement, there is still no meaningful impact if the student is not progressing.  Our critique of the previous version of the bill still applies.

No control over the expenditure of funds

As Reaching Higher NH pointed out in a new analysis today, the lack of expenditure controls in an Arizona program like this one – a program with much better controls than SB 193 provides – led to significant abuse.

Written by and for one anti-public education organization

The only group that qualifies as a potential “scholarship organization” will be the Children’s Scholarship Fund, a national organization that asserts that vouchers are needed to get students out of failed public schools and into private schools that do much better.  This is the same group that failed to generate public support for the 2012 voucher program.

Pays for unqualified people to provide education services

The bill lists the artifacts to be considered what reviewing qualifications but defines no actual qualifications for tutors who can be paid with state funds.  And there is no provision for actually reviewing those qualifications.  As a result, non-school schools like BigFish in Dover could open with unqualified staff throughout the State, fed by voucher funds.  There is no meaningful limit on the level of voucher funding available homeschoolers could pay such groups.


2 Comments

  1. wgersen says:

    First and foremost: THANK YOU for resuscitating this site and keeping us posted on the developments in Concord. Here’s the letter I wrote to the Education Committee members in the House and to my local delegation, all of whom are distressed over this legislation for various reasons:

    Dear _____:

    I am writing to urge you to vote against the passage of SB 193 because it is based on deeply flawed principles. SB 193 assumes that

    • Public education should function in an unregulated marketplace.
    • Parents should have the complete control over the money raised by taxpayers for public schools and be allowed to use those funds to enroll their children in any school or in no school at all
    • A child can receive an adequate public education with a voucher worth “… 90 percent of the per pupil adequate education grant amount pursuant to RSA 198:40-a, plus any differentiated aid”.

    Public education is not a commodity that will benefit from operating in a “free market”. Free markets cannot provide universal services in a fair and equitable fashion. The free market, for example, has not provided access to high speed internet in my relatively isolated part of Hanover, New Hampshire. The free market would not maintain the paved road I live on or the electric service I receive at an affordable rate. And the “free market” will not offer children in New Hampshire an adequate education, especially if the voucher given to parents is worth ”… 90 percent of the per pupil adequate education grant amount pursuant to RSA 198:40-a, plus any differentiated aid”. In a state that is being sued for failing to provide adequate funding for all children, it is inconceivable that 90% of the current funding level will be an adequate amount for any program.

    SB 193 as written gives parents the ability to use taxpayers funds to enroll a child in a religious school, to enroll a child in a school that fails to meet the minimum standards set forth by the state, or to complete a program they develop. There is no assurance that any of these unregulated programs will provide their children with the basic skills as measured by the State’s assessment program. In a State that values the US Constitution, fiscal responsibility, and accountability it is hypocritical to pass a law that allows parents to use public funds for religious education or allows them to use funds to enroll in unregulated schools that do not have to meet state standards.

    SB 193 does provide cover for legislators who do not want to address the persistent issue of inadequate and inequitable funding for public schools. If a full-blown parent choice program emerges from the passage of this and subsequent laws, the legislature could make an argument that no child is being denied an equitable educational opportunity because all parents have a “choice” as to how they use their voucher. “Choice” shifts the burden of providing an adequate education away from the legislature and onto the parents. In doing so, “choice will ultimately exacerbate the economic divide in the state, especially if the voucher a parent receives for each child is valued at ”… 90 percent of the per pupil adequate education grant amount pursuant to RSA 198:40-a, plus any differentiated aid”. Those parents who can afford to supplement the voucher and those parents who can afford homes in communities with well-funded schools will benefit from “choice”. Other parents will have their choices limited to attending their underfunded local schools or enrolling in non-public schools with the lowest tuition rates.

    SB 193 provides one clear benefit: Governor Sununu’s provisos notwithstanding, it will help parents whose children currently attend non-public schools to cover the costs of tuition. This will be accomplished by siphoning funds currently earmarked for public schools, making it even more challenging for public schools to meet the needs of their students and thereby making it more attractive for parents to seek vouchers.

    In conclusion, a vote in support of SB 193 is a vote to diminish the opportunity for ALL children to receive an adequate education, particularly the children in families who cannot augment the vouchers the state would offer and the children in families who reside in districts where state funds would be redirected to underwrite the vouchers provided to students who are already enrolled in private schools. A vote in support of SB 193 is a vote against the “government schools” overseen and regulated by locally elected boards and funded by voters who want to provide an equitable opportunity for all children in their community and in the state. I urge you to vote against this ill-conceived legislation.

    Wayne Gersen
    Etna, NH 03750

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