The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy issued a paper today rebutting the Reaching Higher NH analysis of the potential impact of SB 193, the voucher bill, on New Hampshire’s public schools and state budget.
The Reaching Higher NH analysis made several key points, using conservative assumptions and backed up in exhaustive detail:
- The bill’s eligibility criteria are complex and vague but it’s safe to say that a large proportion of public school students – and even some private school students – would be eligible for vouchers. (The private school students are those who would be entering kindergarten or first grade.)
- The enrollment and budget impact of SB 193 would land disproportionately on our cities and property-poor communities.
- The bill provides for stabilization grants that would reduce the financial impact to districts. These grants would require a new legislative appropriation at least $31 million over the next 5 years.
- Under any reasonable scenario, even if the stabilization funds were appropriated, many communities would be hard hit, especially these forty districts. Manchester, for instance, would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in state aid in the first year and more every year after.
- The State will direct new spending to students currently in private school and homeschooling who will be eligible for a voucher.
The Bartlett center uses a broad brush to refute the detailed Reaching Higher NH analysis. Here’s an overview: (more…)
Local property tax revenues will go along with each SB 193 voucher. Why is that not a problem for legislators?
One of many undiscussed features of SB 193, the private school voucher bill, is the contribution local tax payers would make to the private school tuition of voucher students.
About $363 million of the $900 million annual state adequacy funding comes from the Statewide Education Property Tax (SWEPT), the tax on local property characterized as state revenues but left in place locally as part of the adequacy payment per child. (This spreadsheet shows the amount for each town. It’s real money.)
The current hurried and confused draft of SB 193 does not deal explicitly with the SWEPT but it is clear that the SWEPT would follow the child to fund the private or home schooling contemplated by the bill. The Legislature has already debated this kind of thing. They called it “the donor town debate” and decided that the SWEPT, derived from a tax on the town’s property, would never be sent out of town. SB 193 would send that property tax to private or home schools anywhere in the state.
But there’s another wrinkle as well. One very tuned in House member asked, “What about the 30 or so towns who receive no state funding as part of their adequacy funding? Their entire adequacy funding is the SWEPT. What size voucher would those students get and who would pay for it? The way the current draft of SB 193 reads, those communities would still lose their SWEPT to the voucher program but the State would have to come up with the rest of the voucher funds from new money of some kind. If the student qualified for a free or reduced price lunch, for instance, that would be over $5,000 per year.
Questions like these will probably be resolved eventually, but whatever the answers are, they won’t be good for local tax payers.
The current draft of SB 193 is 9 pages long and fairly complex, but Monadnock United has boiled down the core issues that make it a bad bill and summarized important questions about the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which has been closely involved in writing and lobbying for the bill and will probably get the assignment of managing the voucher program if it passes.
Check them out. They deserve wide circulation.
Local school boards will be concerned about the big changes in the new Manifest Educational Hardship bill
House Education chair Rick Ladd’s proposal for change to the manifest educational hardship statute are now posted as HB 1492. It contains many concepts familiar from the proposals made repeatedly over the past eight months by the New Hampshire Department of Education. The bill needs much more analysis by school board members budget committee members and attorneys, but here are some initial observations. (more…)
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…)
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?
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.
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…)
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.