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The governor, the superintendents, the school boards, the unions and the ADL file amicus briefs opposing vouchers in the NH Supreme Court

Here are the briefs filed in support of the plaintiff’s anti-voucher position in the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  I’ll post more about what’s in them when time permits but they are easy to read, so don’t hesitate. (more…)

Voucher day in NH: Reports, memos and an update on the court case

NEO’s report on this year’s vouchers

The annual report from the scholarship organizations authorized under New Hampshire’s voucher tax credit law were due on December 1st.  We’ve got only one, the Network for Educational Opportunity.  Here, on the NHDRA  web site, is its report. (more…)

Vouchers are not the answer for poor kids – New Hampshire Business Review – July 12 2013

Here is my opinion piece in the July 12th edition of the New Hampshire Business Review:

The Strafford County Superior Court has issued an injunction against using vouchers to fund religious schools, but the program technically still exists and could fund secular and home schools. The case will be appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court for a decision, possibly by next winter.

But why are we debating private school vouchers in New Hampshire? Supporters say it’s “school choice for poor families.” Actually, voucher debate is a diversion from the real discussion of how we can best educate New Hampshire’s low-income children.

Our public schools are among the very best in the world — for kids from wealthy families. Students from the richest 10 percent of American parents outscore even Finnish students on international tests. But many of our schools do not do a good job educating low- and moderate-income students.


Appeals filed in fight against scholarship law | Portsmouth Herald

Here is coverage of the appeals in today’s Portsmouth Herald:

CONCORD — Multiple parties have filed appeals of a Superior Court decision that blocked a portion of a private school scholarship law allowing students to use the funds to attend religious schools.

The state attorney general’s office and scholarship organization Network for Educational Opportunity have filed appeals of Strafford County Superior Court Justice John Lewis’ June 17 order, which states that the law providing businesses with tax credits for contributing to private school scholarship organizations violates the state Constitution.

Lewis agreed with plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit objecting to the law, arguing it would divert taxpayer money to religious schools, therefore, violating the Constitution. However, his ruling did not entirely kill the law; he instead determined the scholarship program and business tax credits could continue as long as none of the money supports scholarships to attend religious schools.


Lots of appeals in the voucher tax credit case, many based on the US Constitution and decisions in other states

Three appeals have been filed asking the New Hampshire Supreme Court to reverse the Strafford Superior Court decision that the New Hampshire voucher program is unconstitutional to the extent that it funds religious schools.  The State and the Network for Educational Opportunity, a scholarship organization, have each appealed the decision.  In addition, the Concord Christian Academy and its scholarship organization, the Giving Going Alliance, not parties to the case up to now, have requested to “intervene” in the case in order to make their own appeal.

There is a fourth appeal, ours, seeking to expand the Superior Court decision and strike down the law entirely.

The appeal documents themselves are linked below.  At this point, the documents consist primarily of forms submitted to the Supreme Court stating the questions the parties are requesting the court to decide.  The arguments themselves will be made a some future point.


Lead attorney opposing NH vouchers explains why states shouldn’t be forced to fund religious schools | redefinED

This piece by Alex Luchenitser, our lead attorney in the case against New Hampshire vouchers, responds in a clear, straightforward way to some of the heavily-used rhetorical points made by voucher supporters (emphasis added).  All the better that it’s in redefinED, the belly of the school choice beast:

Editor’s note: Alex J. Luchenitser is associate legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and lead counsel for the plaintiffs challenging New Hampshire’s tuition tax-credit program.


In a June 24 blog entry, Charles Glenn attacks a recent New Hampshire state-court decision declaring the state’s tuition tax-credit program to be unconstitutional to the extent that it funds religious schools. Dr. Glenn argues that this ruling amounts to “religious discrimination” that should be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. His arguments, however, reflect a misreading of history, and they have already – and rightly – been rejected by the Supreme Court.

The New Hampshire Constitution strictly prohibits the diversion of tax funds to religious education. Well aware of this, the New Hampshire legislature passed the tax-credit program in an effort to circumvent the constitutional prohibition. The state court saw through this scheme, correctly concluding that there is no practical difference between using direct appropriations to fund private-school scholarships and using tax credits to do so.

Dr. Glenn contends the 1877 constitutional provision on which the state court relied was motivated by anti-Catholic animus. But the historical record belies this claim. The same constitutional convention that approved the constitutional provision in question also approved the removal from the state constitution of two clauses that had discriminated in favor of Protestants and against Catholics.

The New Hampshire private school voucher program may be dead for this year

Now that the Strafford Superior Court has said that the tax credit voucher program cannot fund religious schools, the program is left in limbo.  The Network for Educational Opportunity (NEO) is the only active New Hampshire scholarship organization accepting applications, but a Concord Monitor story today reports that NEO has only 100 applicants who are currently attending public schools.

Based on court documents and the Monitor story, probably 30% of those applicants – 30 kids – want to go to secular or home schools.  But, as I discussed in my Sunday opinion piece, 7 out of 10 vouchers must go to students leaving public schools.  So if the program has 30 public school applicants who want to go to secular or home schools, the total size of the program could be only about 42 students.

The Monitor piece says, based on its interview with NEO staffer Kate Baker, that,

“Baker is sticking with her original plan to announce scholarships next month.”

However, a website called “Choice Media – education reform homepage” has posted this from an interview with Baker:

“So Baker is in an usual situation.  If July 30th arrives and there’s still no clue when or even if the state Supreme Court will hear the case, does she award scholarship money to parents and limit them to only secular schools on the approved list, or delay the program in protest until the matter is resolved, while some kids get further behind?

“I have several different contingency plans for what I can do.  I can award scholarships still.  But I’m very concerned because of the number of children that this ruling does impact of my thousand applicants, it is a lot.  And it’s my entire mission to help these families overcome the barriers to choice.  To be able to make the best choice for their families.  And now I’m limiting choices?  To me that just, it totally defeats my purpose.”

I think we’re seeing the program get put on the shelf for this year, as it should be.

End the pointless private school voucher program – Bill Duncan in the Portsmouth Herald

From today’s Portsmouth Herald, here is my opinion piece making the case that the whole voucher debate is a diversion from the real discussion of how we should get low income kids the best possible education:

Last Monday, Strafford Superior Court Judge John Lewis ruled that paying religious schools with vouchers funded by New Hampshire tax credits would violate the New Hampshire Constitution. That’s an important victory for New Hampshire taxpayers and our public schools.

But it’s just a first step. The defendants will probably ask the courts to suspend the ruling pending appeal. However, suspension is unlikely. The case will then be appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court for a decision, possibly by next winter.

Although the court has issued an injunction against using New Hampshire vouchers to fund religious schools, the program technically still exists and could fund secular and home schools.

But the scholarship organizations have generated little support from the business community, raising less than $200,000 for this year. In addition, they will have a hard time meeting the requirement that seven out of 10 vouchers must go to children leaving public schools. (They submitted court documents two months ago showing that there were only 15 applicants from public schools.) The vast majority of voucher applications have been for children who are already in religious or home schools, obviously having made their “school choice” with no state subsidy.


The ‘neovoucher strategy’ (and why it didn’t work in New Hampshire), By Kevin Welner via the Answer Sheet

Another appreciation from the Washington Post of the wisdom of New Hampshire Superior Court Judge John Lewis:

If I wrote a lousy screenplay, I probably shouldn’t then complain about how awful the play is as I watched the actors reciting their lines. So I was amused to see advocates complaining about how a judge in New Hampshire this week struck down that state’sneovoucher law insofar as it funds religious schools.

Here’s what happened. A year ago, then-governor John Lynch of New Hampshire vetoed a bill (Senate Bill 372) that set up a system whereby money that businesses owe to the state in taxes could be diverted to private organizations that would repackage the money and hand it out as private school vouchers (which I’ve called “neovouchers”). Some of the funded schools would be secular, some would be religious, and up to 25% would be homeschoolers.


Donations In Name Only; N.H. Court Isn’t Fooled by Tax Credit | Valley News

No need for commentary.  This Valley News editorial says it all:

Supporters of New Hampshire’s new education tax credit law claim to be shocked and appalled that it has been found unconstitutional by Superior Court Judge John M. Lewis and promise to appeal. We’re inclined to think they should have seen it coming.

The law, passed last year when no conservative crusade was too quixotic to pass muster in the then-Republican-dominated Legislature, allows businesses to claim tax credits equal to 85 percent of amounts they donate to state-designated “scholarship organizations.” These, in turn, are permitted to award scholarships up to $2,500 to low-income students to attend private schools, as well as public schools outside their home district, or for home schooling.