SB 193, the statewide voucher bill, appears to have been the highest legislative priority of the Governor and legislative leadership. It had the support of many Republicans who feel that the State should provide access to private schools in support of parental choice and student needs. Last fall, it looked sure to pass. But in the end, the House voted it down by the thinnest of margins.
Here’s a central reason:
We had more good old fashioned activism than we’ve ever had before in support of public education. It was parents, grandparents and New Hampshire citizens who feel that our schools are just too precious a resource. People from all over the state, catalyzed by Concord’s Kent Street Coalition (which organized Thursday’s State House response pictured above), Monadnock United 2018, Indivisible New Hampshire and many other groups studied the details of the bill, followed its complex series of amendments, made informed calls, wrote emails, recruited friends, testified, talked to their representatives and made trips to Concord at key moments.
The large “Pals of public education” network connected with legislators by phone, email and in person to learn what they thought about the bill and tell them why the bill was bad for New Hampshire.
And the grounded, numbers-based analysis provided by Reaching Higher NH allowed legislators and people throughout the State to understand the bill and its potential impact on schools and on the state budget.
But all this would probably not have paid off without the extended, detailed and honest financial analysis of the bill by the House Finance Committee, led by Weare Republican Neal Kurk. Rep. Kurk and other committee members who support school choice and had voted for SB 193 in January could not in the end rationalize the cost of the program to either the state General Fund or to local tax payers.
With Rep. Kurk leading the opposition on the House floor, 27 strong-willed Republicans, facing what many observers said was pressure like they’d never seen before, joined a 100% unified Democratic caucus to defeat the final attempt to pass the bill.
Some of the legislators will be different when similar bills come back next year, but we’ll need the same kind of commitment from parents and citizens who understand the critical role our schools play in the future of the State and appreciate what teachers do for all the children who walk in the doors, day in and day out.
Please be in touch if, with whatever limited time you have, you want to join in to amplify your own voice in support of public education.