SB 193 is a major departure from any existing voucher program in the country. It is one of the few programs that supports homeschooling. But it is an even greater departure in that there is no accountability for student progress or school qualifications.
In the end, SB 193 seems to be less about improving educational achievement, as most voucher programs are, and more about maximizing the number of students leaving public schools.
To see the difference, compare the New Hampshire program with Wisconsin’s, for instance. Here is a list of features that Wisconsin has and SB 193 does not:
- All teachers and administrators must have credentials.
- Schools must be accredited by a a real accrediting agency; Provide minimum yearly instruction of 1,050 hours for grades 1-6 and 1,137 hours for grades 7-12; administer the state assessments; adopt standards in math, science, reading and writing, geography, and history.
- Schools may only reject students for capacity issues. If applications exceed capacity, the school must hold a lottery and give preference to previous students, siblings of previously enrolled students, students attending another private school under the choice program and their siblings.
- Schools may not charge tuition beyond the voucher amount for students in grades K-8 and students in high school with household incomes at or below 220 percent of federal poverty guidelines. However, schools may charge reasonable fees for various things, although unpaid fees cannot affect a student’s grades.
- Schools must meet at least one of the following standards for participating students: at least 70 percent advance one grade level each year; average yearly attendance rate of 90 percent; at least 80 percent demonstrate significant academic progress; at least 70 percent of families meet parent involvement criteria established by the school.
- Provide evidence of fiscal soundness and meet financial requirements.
- Hold two meetings per year where members of the school’s governing body can interact with participating students and prospective scholarship students.
- And, of course, homeschooling expenses are not allowed.
Some of these requirements may not be a fit for New Hampshire, but it is clear that legislators in Wisconsin and most other states are actually attempting to ensure that state support accomplishes real education and makes it affordable to low income children. As this comparison by EdChoice shows, SB 193 does nothing similar.