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The House has voted 184-162 in favor of moving SB 193 to the Finance Committee

We will provide the vote breakdown as soon as possible.

If you want to stay up to the minute on SB 193 voting…

Here is the link to video of the House session going on right now

And here is the House Calendar, so you can see where they are in the agenda.  SB 193 is on page 19, the beginning of “Regular Calendar Part Two,” which means that it would have been scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday, January 4th). That session has been postponed in anticipation of the storm.  Stay tuned for further updates.

And here is the link to the January 2 presentation by supporters of SB 193.

How, exactly, would our school voucher money be spent? – Concord Monitor OpEd

Mary Wilke, retired Concord Educator, analyses what New Hampshire tax money would actually be paying for if SB 193 passed.

Leave aside for a moment the constitutionality of using state money for religious education. The immediate question for legislators is whether their constituents would find it acceptable to fund the curriculum offered by New Hampshire’s sectarian schools.

If the current version of Senate Bill 193 becomes law, many children will use vouchers to attend religious schools, and taxpayers will pay for the teaching of religious and political ideology that may violate their own beliefs. For instance, a number of New Hampshire religious schools use the Abeka curriculum, from Pensacola Christian College, widely used by Christian schools and home-schoolers.

(more…)

SB 193 remains an unjustified attack on N.H. public schools – Concord Monitor OpEd

UNH education professor Joe Ononsco lays out the fundamental case against vouchers in the Concord Monitor:

Senate Bill 193 is an education voucher program that received much criticism during the 2017 legislative session, and rightly so. As originally written, it allocated potentially enormous sums of public taxpayer money (from $3,600 to $7,500 per student) for parents to send their children to elite private schools and religious schools, and to fund the efforts of home school parents, some of whom are zealous religious fundamentalists.

(more…)

Do House members know how radical SB 193 actually is?  

SB 193 is a major departure from any existing voucher program in the country.  It is the only program that supports homeschooling.  But it is an even greater departure in that there is no accountability for student progress or school qualifications.

In the end, SB 193 is not actually about improving educational achievement, as most voucher programs are.  The bill is fundamentally about maximizing the number of students leaving public schools.  To see the difference, compare the New Hampshire program with Wisconsin’s, for instance.  Here is a list of features that Wisconsin has and SB 193 does not: (more…)

A disturbing exchange with Commissioner Edelblut – Concord Monitor oped

Former charter school leader Karin Cevasco published an oped in today’s Concord Monitor describing her experience in applying for the new “Charter Public School Program Officer” position at the New Hampshire Department of Education.  The position was created in 2016 by SB 483, sponsored by Sen. Dan Feltes with a long list of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors.

Ms. Cevasco said that she was concerned about politicization of the position:

But the job description Commissioner Edelblut posted does not reflect the statute. It says the goal is to “provide assistance to stakeholders in other school choice opportunities . . . and developing or revising school choice policies.” The responsibilities include providing “assistance . . . in implementing laws and regulations related to charter schools, home schools and nonpublic schools” and evaluating “policies, procedures and guidelines for public school choice in New Hampshire.”

The interview itself was even more alarming: (more…)

Great story! Educators used the manifest educational hardship statute to help a kid overcome his challenges and graduate successfully from high school

New Hampshire educator Laura Spratt wrote to the State Board of Education this week about the manifest educational hardship (MEH) statute because the public hearing on the new MEH rules is tomorrow, December 14, from 1:00 to 1:30 and she wanted to get these thoughts into the public record for the board’s consideration.

Our department of education has been proposing changes, many of which are reflected in legislation proposed for the 2018 session, that would turn the MEH statute into a backdoor to universal school choice paid for by local New Hampshire taxpayers.

But here’s Ms. Spratt’s great letter about how her school district applied the MEH statute the way it was meant to be used. (more…)

Americans for Prosperity going for broke on SB 193, the voucher bill

Backers are working overtime to counter the drumbeat of challenging news about SB 193, the bill to encourage parents to withdraw their children from public education.  On December 6th, the Concord Monitor reported on the Reaching Higher NH analysis of the bill under the headline, “Voucher Bill could cost N.H. millions.”  Then yesterday, the Union Leader wrote about home-schoolers rebelling against the bill’s modest accountability provisions as a “backdoor to impose evaluation requirements on home-schoolers.”

So the bill’s highly organized advocates are pulling out all the stops to head off legitimate concerns by the bill’s supporters.  First, Josiah Bartlett Interim Director and New Hampshire State Board of Education chairman Drew Cline issued this rebuttal to the Reaching Higher NH analysis.  Now we have a mailer from the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity group demonstrating the kind of support House members can expect if they vote for SB 193.

Notice the sunny patina AFP puts on a bill that would begin to replace New Hampshire public schools with uncertified tutors, private schools and home-schooling, a project fully supported by Governor Sununu and the New Hampshire Department of Education. (more…)

The Bartlett center fails to dent the rigorous Reaching Higher NH analysis of SB 193

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.