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Is the Catholic Diocese of Manchester lobbying behind the scenes for SB 193?

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American Catholic schools have always been a great source of learning in a context of values and discipline. But times are tough.  While New Hampshire public schools have lost 12% of their enrollment over the past 10 years, our private schools have lost 19%.  They are down from 20,000 students in 2008 to 16,000 students now (NHDOE).

New Hampshire’s nationally-known private schools are doing fine but the local, mostly church-based, schools are hard hit by those enrollment declines.  It’s a national phenomenon that NPR did a story on a year ago, observing,“For schools that were financially strapped — and, with Catholic school enrollment plunging in recent years, there are many of those — vouchers have been a lifeline…[R]esearchers found ‘vouchers are now a dominant source of funding for many churches’ and that parishes ‘running voucher-accepting schools get more revenue from vouchers than from worshipers.’”

Maybe that is why Bishop Peter Libasci of the Diocese of Manchester, with 26 schools that would benefit from SB 193, is pulling out all the stops, urging his parishioners to, “Contact Your Representatives to Support Education Savings Accounts” with this message:
bishop's message
The website suggests personalizing the email with opening and closing comments and provides the following message, with no indication of on whose behalf the legislator contact is being made:
Support Education Savings Accounts (SB 193)
As your constituent, I write to urge you to support SB 193, the bill to create Education Savings Accounts in New Hampshire. We should continue to support our local public schools, and we also should empower families to make the best decisions for their children. These are not mutually exclusive concepts. An ESA program would support families trying to find the right academic setting for their children but struggling to afford it.

The church/state issue has been central to the SB 193 debate all along.  The constitutionality question itself is for another day.  If the bill were to pass, the courts would decide.  But there is a different question here.

Is replacing church funding with state funding, as NPR reports, the legitimate, understood purpose of SB 193 in New Hampshire?  If so, why the sub-rosa lobbying effort?  Although the Diocese of Manchester would probably be the single largest beneficiary of the new voucher program, the Bishop has made no public statement.  The campaign the diocese has apparently mounted in this email campaign suggests that he may have been working behind the scenes all this time.

There’s nothing wrong with the Bishop campaigning for SB 193, but legislators receiving those calls and emails should be clear about the source.

1 Comment

  1. […] Duncan, the Advancing New Hampshire blogger, wrote a post yesterday describing the efforts of the New Hampshire diocese to solicit parishioners support for […]

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