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Union Leader: “Legislative budget office predicts cities will take the biggest hit from school choice bill”

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The Union Leader follows up today with important coverage of yesterday’s House Finance Division II committee discussion of SB 193, the voucher bill.  Here is the LBA financial analysis that is under discussion.

Public school districts in Manchester, Nashua and Concord would see a disproportionately larger number of their students take state money to attend private schools if a school-choice bill now before the legislature is signed into law, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Assistant released on Wednesday.

While most public school districts in the state would likely lose between 1 percent and 0.5 percent of eligible students, the state’s three largest cities could each lose 2.5 percent a year to private schools.

The reason: supply and demand, according to the analysis. There are more private schools within commuting distance and more demand for their services in the larger school districts.

The multi-year financial analysis of Senate Bill 193 was presented by Legislative Budget Assistant (LBA) staff to members of the House Finance Committee as they reviewed a lengthy amendment to the bill submitted Monday by the chairs and co-chairs of the House Education and Finance committees….

“We will be holding the hearing on SB 193 as amended, so that will allow the public to come in and discuss what the changes are and whether they’ve changed their mind based on the changes,” said Rep. Karen Umberger, R-Kearsarge, chair of the Finance Committee subcommittee reviewing SB 193.

An earlier version of the bill that passed the House in January promised five years of “stabilization payments” to school districts that lose state funding equal to 0.25 percent or more of the district’s budget.

Under the revision, the state would now pay a “one-time adjustment” of only $1,500 for each student who takes advantage of a scholarship and leaves the district.

Shifting the burden

That change would ease the financial uncertainty to the state, but adds uncertainty to local school budgets.

“This (amendment) is a savings to the state, however, doesn’t it result in a downshift to the municipalities,” said committee member Rep. Robert Theberge, R-Berlin.

Umberger pointed out that in the first year a student moves to a private school, the public schools won’t lose any of their per-pupil grant, and that no more than 5 percent of students from the largest districts will be accepted into the choice program.

“Then we added the $1,500 to help them with their costs for the second year,” said Umberger. “By the third year, we would hope they would recognize what is going on and make adjustments to their budgets.

“If a school board decides not to make adjustments,” she said to Theberge, “you are correct, the school taxes may increase. But if you are a wise school board looking at what’s going on with your school district, then changes can be made.”….

 

Cumulative impact

“You are going to have a cumulative impact,” said Landrigan, “as new kids are added in each successive year. There is no cumulative effect of the one-time ($1,500) payment.”

By the 11th year of the program, about 6.3 percent of the state’s eligible families (about 2,000 students) will be receiving Educational Savings Account scholarships, according to the LBA estimates.

The loss of state funding to the public school districts (not counting public charter schools) would rise from $2.17 million in the first year of the program, to $11.8 million by the 11th year.

The question of how many students will actually take advantage of the scholarships has been central to the debate, with program supporters maintaining it is not likely to exceed 1 percent annually statewide.

“I don’t expect anyone to lose 5 percent of their student,” said Umberger. “We all talk about how great our schools are, and our schools are great. It’s just that there are parents whose children don’t fit in, and those are the folks we anticipate will be moving.”

Read the whole report here: Legislative budget office predicts cities will take the biggest hit from school choice bill | New Hampshire


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