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NH Supreme Court hears the voucher tax credit case

The New Hampshire Supreme Court heard the voucher tax credit case yesterday.  Both sides stated their cases clearly and concisely.  The justices had many pointed questions and Chief Justice Linda Dalianis complimented the legal teams for the quality of their briefs on this legally complex case.  Here is the video of the hearing.


Oral arguments set for April 16 in the voucher tax credit case

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has set 9:30, April 16 as the date for oral arguments in the voucher tax credit case.  The hearing will take place at One Charles Doe Drive, Concord, NH 03301.

Each side will have 15 minutes to argue its case.

This year’s voucher tax credit program will be even smaller than last year’s

There was an interesting story in the Union Leader this morning.  The headline said, “Half of scholarship cash from business tax credit donations returned,” as if this information that was announced two months ago were news today.  And here’s the first paragraph (emphasis added): (more…)

Education tax credit program should be repealed – Concord Monitor

The Concord Monitor gets it right on the voucher tax credit law:

It’s not every day that the attorney general and the governor find themselves publicly at odds over important state policy, but it happened this week – and thank goodness.

At issue is a 2012 law that set up a tax credit program for businesses, essentially rewarding them for donating money to a fund that provides “scholarships” to help some children attend religious or other private schools, receive home-schooling or attend a public school outside their home district. Controversial from the get-go, the program was approved by the Legislature over the veto of then-Gov. John Lynch.

A superior court judge ruled last summer that the program could not be used to support religious school education. And this week Gov. Maggie Hassan weighed in, filing a brief encouraging the state Supreme Court to uphold the lower court ruling – in opposition to the attorney general’s office, which is defending the law.

“The governor treasures the diversity of private schools in our state, and fully appreciates their contributions to tolerance and learning. But the decision to contribute to a private religious school is a personal decision. It should not be supported by the state’s tax structure, and it should not have the effect of diverting scarce taxpayer dollars from crucial public needs,” Hassan said in her brief.

She’s right. The Supreme Court should do as the governor suggests. And, beyond that, the Legislature should pull the plug on the entire program.


read the rest here:Editorial: Education tax credit program should be repealed | Concord Monitor.

The State’s media: Gov. Hassan urges high court affirm strike down tax credits for religious schools

Here’s Kevin Landrigan in the Nashua Telegraph on the Governor’s amicus brief asking the NH Supreme Court to strike down the voucher bill.  The brief itself is here, along with the many other briefs opposing the law.

CONCORD – Gov. Maggie Hassan urged the state’s highest court Monday to strike down a state law that gives business owners tax credits to support religious school scholarships.

In a brief filed by her lawyers, Hassan said Strafford County Judge John Lewis rightly decided tax credits supporting religious schools violated separation of church and state.

“The education voucher tax credit program is a misguided policy that undermines New Hampshire’s public education system and violates our state’s constitutional separation of church and state,” Hassan said in a statement.


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…)

Get this: Privatizers see the Common Core as a Distraction from school choice!

I always consider policy discussions about privatization – proposals to dismantle public education and replace it with charters, vouchers and home schools  – a distraction from the real project of making our public schools the best in the world.  But anti-Common Core activists have the gall to see the work needed to move our schools forward – like increasing expectations by instituting higher standards like the Common Core – as a distraction from their privatization goal!  

Just think about that.

New Hampshire’s anti-Common Core activists express these very views (a point I first made here) but the American Principles Project further fleshed out this manifesto on its blog a couple of days ago.  Here’s an excerpt: 

American Principles Project has been an advocate for school choice since our inception.  We have been alarmed how the Common Core State Standards  has been an intrusion for private schools and even homeschoolers.  In principle we desire greater choice in education as parents should have sovereignty over how their children learn.  The Common Core diminishes parental choice as they are confronted by “common standards” at every turn.  Robert Holland of The Heartland Institute gave a dire warning last month saying that the Common Core would cripple school choice.

Ultimately, disempowerment may be the main reason for parental angst. Unless it is stopped, Common Core will deliver a devastating blow to parental choice at all levels. The one, limited power possessed by most public-school parents is the ability to seek change at the local school board. Unfortunately, the corporate and foundation-funded sponsors of CCSS copyrighted the standards and set up no process for local amendment.

The greatest leverage for parents comes when they can use vouchers or tax-credit scholarships to transfer their children to private or parochial schools. But even in a state with as strong a voucher program as Indiana, the government requires schools accepting voucher students to administer the official test, which has opened the door wide to CCSS-style assessment. Thus will governmental creep dilute the liberating effect of school choice.

Nor will homeschooling parents be exempt if CCSS stands, because many states also require home educators to administer the official test. Even more insidious, Common Core lead writer David Coleman (formerly a testing consultant) now heads the College Board and has vowed to align the SAT with the nationalized standards. Thus any student—whether from public, private, parochial, or home school—will have to be Common Core-acclimated.


via Common Core Is a Distraction From School Choice.

So there you have it.  The privatizers see the Common Core as a threat to their goal of dismantling American public education.  Naturally.

NHPR and Concord Monitor feature NEO “misinterpretation” of education tax credit law

The headline about the voucher program has become the memo from the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration correcting the “misinterpretation” of the voucher tax credit law by NEO, the only active scholarship organization authorized to raise and distribute money under the law.  (There was never any real doubt about the meaning of the law.)

Here is NHPR’s take, reported by Sam Evans-Brown last night:

State To NEO: Give More Scholarships To Public School Students

The Department of Revenue Administration has released a memo clarifying the rules surrounding a controversial education tax credit scholarship. The memo makes clear that the state’s largest scholarship organization will have to change how it operates next year….

The Network for Educational Opportunity will have to give 70 percent of its scholarships to individual public school students. This year it’s giving 70 percent of the funds to just 13 public school students. That’s the lion’s share of the funds going to just 12.6 percent of scholarship recipients.

See the rest here.

And in the Concord Monitor, Kathleen Ronayne reports this morning:

DRA statement reveals misinterpretation of education tax credit law


The ruling won’t change or take away scholarships awarded this year, but it will have a significant affect on the program going forward. This year, only 13 out of 103 students receiving scholarships transferred from public to private schools. The NEO gave out about $128,000 in scholarships, meaning roughly $90,000 was split between those 13 students. Some of the largest scholarships include $12,000 between two students to attend Liberty Harbor Academy in Manchester, $6,000 to another to attend Proctor Academy in Andover and $12,000 for one student to go to Tilton Academy.

The other 90 students – home schoolers and students already in private schools – got the remaining money, and therefore much smaller scholarships. Scholarships for home-schooled students averaged $215, which goes toward the purchase of books and materials.


See the rest here

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…)

Common Core opponents come clean – it’s all about the rights of private and home schoolers. Huh?

Eagle Tribune reporter John Toole wrote a piece yesterday with a telling quote from Cornerstone:

Cornerstone, announcing a forum last month with AFP at St. Anselm College, said many parents, teachers and legislators are questioning and opposing Common Core.

“How will Common Core impact home-school and private school students? What about all the data collection on students and their families? What will this cost taxpayers?” Cornerstone asked.

There it is.  The Common Core debate in New Hampshire is being driven by homeschoolers and privatization advocates like Cornerstone out of concern for how improved public education standards might eventually affect voucher and home schools.  Just stop and think about that for a minute.  These folks are part of a national effort that would shut down public education and replace it with private and home schools but still want to set policy for New Hampshire public education.  In case it might eventually affect them.

Here is Cornerstone advocating for vouchers last year, saying that New Hampshire standards are so bad that students need private tutors to be successful in school.  Now the same folks oppose a improving New Hampshire academic standards because of “all the data collection on students and their families?”  Where does this concern come from?  There is no serious risk to student data privacy in New Hampshire.  Nor does cost appear to be a serious issue.  No.  Cornerstone is clear about its real concern, asserting that “teachers” are concerned about the question:

“How will Common Core impact home-school and private school students?”

Personally, I doubt it.  But Cornerstone’s frequent advocacy partner, Jamie Gass, from the free market Pioneer Institute says he opposes the Common Core for the same reason: it might affect charter and voucher schools.

Adoption of the Common Core became a political issue in Manchester driven largely by a local radio talk show host who serves on the board of and sends his kids to the the libertarian Liberty Harbor Academy, an advocate for privatization of New Hampshire public education.  Here is Manchester master teacher Selma Nacach- Hoff pleading with the school board to move beyond that political debate and exercise its responsibility for curriculum leadership.  And the school board did do the right thing last week.

Homeschoolers and private and religious schools funded with vouchers operate with no accountability in New Hampshire.  So advocates seem to want a public debate about the Common Core because, at some time in the future, they might feel cramped by the effort to improve New Hampshire public education.

As a result, we will have at least 5 bills in the upcoming legislative session and a number of school boards around the state are earnestly debating the merits of the Common Core, a clear step forward for New Hampshire public education, because homeschoolers and voucher advocates are concerned that their rights might eventually be infringed.

We pride ourselves on our open public debate here in New Hampshire.  I hope that will never change.  Common Core opponents should get a fair public hearing.  But legislators and school board members should not allow themselves to be sidetracked by the Common Core red herrings offered by advocates for privatization of public education.