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Concord School Board member concerned about SB 193: What about serving ALL our students, including those with behavior issues

Concord school board member Pam Wicks sent this letter to the House Education Committee today:

Dear Chairman Ladd and honorable members of the House Education Committee,

My name is Pam Wicks and I live in Concord, NH.  I am writing today because I have some questions in regards to SB-193 that I do not believe have been addressed relative to establishing educational savings accounts.

The first question would be how this bill will address students with behavior issues.  In the past few years our school district has seen an increase in students with severe mental health and behavior issues In our public elementary school.  During my time volunteering in the school, II have seen first graders flee the grounds, kick and bang doors when they are placed in an empty room so that they do not harm other students.  The staff is doing their very best to help these students but our resources our tapped.  Students in this situation, are not going to find a place in a private school, where they have the right to deny enrollment.  Where is this child’s choice?

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The House Education Committee will vote Tuesday on a version of SB 193, the voucher bill, that is revised but not improved

Here is the SB193 2017-2523h that the House Education Committee will vote on (though amendments are possible during the committee meeting) in its Tuesday, November 14 meeting at 10:00 AM in LOB 206-208.  Committee members have made a number of changes over the past week but they still have a tangled bill that does not fund an adequate education for New Hampshire students. (more…)

If you thought SB 193, the voucher bill, had accountability built in, read this

The accountability provision of SB 193, the voucher bill, was added to gain needed support from several Republican members of the House Education Committee, but it was apparently written by a committee member rather than one of the staff attorneys because the accountability provision, like much of the bill, is a tangled collection of unenforceable provisions.

The lack of accountability is a core problem for SB 193. New Hampshire is constitutionally obligated to pay for an adequate education and SB 193 vouchers are funded by taking the State’s adequacy grant for that child from the school district and giving most of it to the parents. But the State gets no assurance that it is getting an adequate education in return. Here is a point by point analysis.

The assessment provisions could change again as sponsors try to win votes, but the accountability section of the November 8th draft of the bill begins by saying on Page 4, (more…)

Voucher bill, SB 193, part of a larger attack on public schools – Opinion, Portsmouth Herald.

The Seacoast Media Group papers published an oped by Bill Duncan today about the emerging commitment of state government to the school choice movement at the expense of our neighborhood schools. Here it is in full:

SB 193, the voucher bill, will come up for a vote in the House Education Committee this Tuesday, Nov. 14.  It is a very bad bill and so poorly written that even the committee Republicans are divided over it.

SB 193 would offer parents up to $5,100 (or even more) as an inducement to move their children out of neighborhood schools into homeschooling or private schools, including religious schools.

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SB 193 punishes schools that we should be helping

Governor Sununu announced his support for SB 193 yesterday, conditioned upon limiting the students who would qualify.  From the Concord Monitor coverage:

The amendment championed by Sununu would narrow that range to four categories, Ladd explained at the event: those in families with income at or below 300 percent of the household poverty level; those in underperforming schools; those in an individualized education program; and those who have unsuccessfully applied for tuition assistance at a charter school lottery.

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SB 193: Analysis of Potential Impact on Tax Rates in Rural New Hampshire – Reaching Higher NH

Reaching Higher NH has released a new analysis showing that the potential impact of SB 193, the voucher bill, on local property tax rates in rural communities could be substantial.

Our analysis shows that rural or property-poor municipalities would be disproportionately impacted by SB 193. Berlin for example, would need to raise local taxes by $0.12 (per $1,000 in equalized valuation) in order to compensate for the loss of state aid should approximately 1% of its students choose a voucher; Moultonborough, in contrast, would only need to raise its local taxes by $0.01 to compensate for 1% of its students choosing a voucher.

SB 193, the voucher bill, will come back looking pretty much as it did in the 2017 legislative session

SB 193 would create a universal voucher program under which the State would take the adequacy funding that would have gone to a school and grant it, minus 5% administrative cost, to any student who’d been in school for a year (plus any kindergarten and first grade student) to use toward private or home school expenses.  Here is the SB 193 coverage provided by Reaching Higher NH.

As a Reaching Higher NH analysis has shown, there is no upper limit on how much this program could cost New Hampshire school districts.  The Union Leader coverage of that analysis identified some of the initial arguments on both sides of the question of the financial impact of SB 193: (more…)

Private school vouchers are wrong for New Hampshire – Opinion, Keene Sentinal

The Keene Sentinal published a new oped by Bill Duncan today making the point that a New Hampshire Department of Education committed to school choice as its primary policy objective is failing the public schools for which it is responsible. The chair of the House Education Committee says our best in the nation schools “don’t cut the mustard” and, rather than helping them improve, we should take the kids out. Our department of education, closely involved in developing and lobbying for SB 193, seems to agree. This can only damage our neighborhood schools. Here’s the oped: (more…)

Don’t hurt public schools to fund private education vouchers – Editorial, Portsmouth Herald

We have critiqued the latest draft of SB 193 but the much more important points are those the Portsmouth Herald makes in today’s editorial.

Today the New Hampshire House Education Committee will vote on Senate Bill 193: “An Act establishing education freedom accounts for students.”

“This bill establishes the education freedom savings account program to be administered by the Department of Education,” its fiscal note explains. “The program allows the parent of an eligible child to contract and receive a grant for a scholarship organization to pay for qualifying educational expenses.”

While the bill has a long way to go in the legislative process, in our view, as written, it faces significant constitutional challenges, particularly because it would allow public tax dollars to be used at religious schools.

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Dover speaks out for neighborhood schools: “No on vouchers”

The House Education Committee is scheduled to vote on SB 193, the voucher bill on Tuesday, November 14 at 10:00 in Legislative Office Building 206-208.  Although the bill will go to the full House in the upcoming legislature no matter what, this vote is an important test.
The Dover School District and the Dover City Council have written a letter and Dover Superintendent of Schools William Hebron has written his own letter to the New Hampshire House Education Committee opposing SB 193, the voucher bill.
Both letters are strong and eloquent.  Here are excerpts.

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