The Education Savings Account grants to be offered under SB 193, the statewide voucher program, are already among the largest in the country. But the governor and private school advocates in the legislature are fighting hard for even higher grants. They want to give schools both ESA grants from SB 193 and Education Tax Credit grants from the 2012 voucher bill – for the same student.
Public schools in New Hampshire get a set amount of state money (adequacy funding) per student, $3,600 plus additional increments if they are low income, English language learners, have special needs, etc. Under the double-dipping proposal the Finance Committee is now considering, private schools could get a far larger adequacy payment for each student than the public schools do. First, the State would pay the private school the same adequacy funding public schools get. Then the State would be able to give the school an additional grant of thousands of dollars from the 2012 voucher program.
Not only is this unfair to all the rest of the students, it’s money that experience has shown the schools do not need. When a parent comes to the school with a state check for over $5,000, the school always finds ways to provide scholarships and other forms of support to close the gap between their nominal tuition rates and the parent’s capacity to pay.
New Hampshire’s private schools, particularly parochial schools, have seen enrollment declines in recent years as the public schools have. They draw on church resources or, if they are for-profit schools, they just lose money. Private school advocates see double-dipping as an opportunity to increase support for the State’s troubled private schools by giving them access to public funding.