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Union Leader: “Major changes proposed for school choice bill opposed by Democrats | New Hampshire”

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Here are highlights from the Union Leader report on the emergence of SB 193 as a bill that replaces state funding for private school vouchers with funding by local property taxpayers:

A year-long legislative effort to enable the use of taxpayer funds for private school education has taken another turn, with the second complete overhaul of Senate Bill 193….

The changes include substantial reductions in subsidies to cities and towns that lose public school students; tighter qualifications for those seeking scholarships; more accountability for the private schools that get the money; and further delays in implementation….

After House passage, the bill was referred to House Finance because of the dollars involved, and has since been reworked again, in anticipation of another House vote before the end of March.

Public school advocacy groups argue the bill, if signed into law, would drain millions of dollars from public schools.

“It’s still a bad bill,” according to the website Advancing New Hampshire Public Education, created by former Board of Education member and public school advocate Bill Duncan.

“The amendment tightens some of the loopholes, but places local school districts in greater financial jeopardy. A bad bill remains a bad bill that should be voted down.”

School choice supporters, including Gov. Chris Sununu and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, believe those fears are based on unrealistic assumptions of how many families will take advantage of the scholarship accounts.

“I think it (the amendment) moves the ball in the right direction toward choice,” said Edelblut. “The concerns many have expressed are overstated. We have many excellent schools in New Hampshire and I think it’s unlikely you will see a mass exodus from that system.”…

The major change in the amendment drafted by leaders of the House education and finance committees is the elimination of a stabilization fund to shelter school districts from a significant loss of funding.

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

Instead, 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.

The new version of the bill caps the number of students who could receive scholarships each year in any one school district. No one school could lose more than 5 percent of its students in a single year.

The household income limit to qualify for scholarships has been reduced from 300 percent to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, while the criteria for private schools receiving scholarship students have been tightened up.

Read the whole thing here: Major changes proposed for school choice bill opposed by Democrats | New Hampshire

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