Advancing New Hampshire Public Education

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Dave Solomon’s State House Dome: Finance flexes its muscle….on SB 193, the voucher bill

The Union Leader’s statehouse correspondent Dave Solomon is watching SB 913 closely and had this to say today:

The Finance Committee’s power was on full display recently, as two important pieces of legislation already approved by the House went through the committee’s Cusinart and came out as something entirely different -the school choice bill (SB 193) and the family medical leave bill (HB 628).

The House Education Committee worked on the Senate-passed school choice bill, SB 193, for the better part of a year and handed it over to the full House in January, where is passed 184-162. The bill calls for state-funded scholarships for certain children to attend private schools, including religious schools, or to pay for home schooling.

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Governor Sununu voices a new vision of New Hampshire education in today’s Union Leader

Today’s Union Leader Sunday News has great coverage of the school funding issue in two articles, Dave Solomon’s “Spending and student achievement linked, but that’s not the whole story” and Shawn Wickham’s companion piece “Granite State schools reveal their ‘special sauce’.” We’ll post more about them later but what immediately jumps off the page is the Governor’s statement on the school funding issue, provided through a spokesman:

“Gov. Sununu believes that investing in kids, not institutions, will produce positive results for New Hampshire students, which is why he supports SB 193, giving families more freedom in their children’s education,” he said, referring to the school choice bill backed by Sununu and Edelblut.

We have the Governor of New Hampshire saying he does not believe in investing in the public school “institutions” that educate New Hampshire’s children.  He supports SB 193, co-authored by his education commissioner, to invest in private school institutions instead. (more…)

Mary Wilke on SB 193 in the Concord Monitor: “school choice for a small minority of students at the expense of all the rest”

The House vote on SB 193 was postponed because, in spite of enormous pressure from the Governor and House leadership, the support was not there. But as leadership twists arms and supporters formulate amendments to expand eligibility, the central question Mary Wilke poses will remain: Is the Legislature willing to redirect $100 million from all public school students to send 2,000 children private schools over the next 11 years?

Here’s how Ms. Wilke puts it in today’s Concord Monitor:

If you had $1 million and could use it to either improve your local public school for the benefit of all of its students or pay for a handful of students to attend private school, what would you do? The current school choice debate really boils down to that question.

We all want what’s best for the children in our communities, including access to high-quality education. The Education Savings Account program envisioned under Senate Bill 193 (sometimes called the “school voucher” bill) reflects its supporters’ concern that some students are not being well served in their public schools and should have the opportunity to transfer to a private school or be home schooled.

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Reaching Higher NH: Newest voucher bill Amendment corrects an inequity that benefitted wealthy towns, but more inequities remain

Reaching Higher NH testified to the House Finance Division II subcommittee about inequities in the impact on the 30 or so “SWEPT only” towns in the State.  The point it made, summarized in an article posted today was that:

The House Finance Division II Subcommittee released an amendment to SB 193, the statewide voucher bill, on Tuesday that removes the $1,500 adjustment grant for wealthier communities….

Due to the way that New Hampshire funds its public schools, that meant that wealthier communities could financially benefit from a loss of students. In New Hampshire, the state gives districts about $3,600 in state funding for each student, which is collected locally by towns through property taxes (referred to as the Statewide Education Property Tax, or “SWEPT”). But if towns collect more than they need, they keep the funds and do not give the remainder back to the state.

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Nine misconceptions about SB 193 and the proposed amendments under consideration

The House Finance Committee is likely to report SB 193, the Education Savings Account (ESA) bill, out of committee much changed compared to the version that passed the House in January.  After a flurry of recent amendments (we will continue to update this post as further amendments emerge), there are a number of misconceptions about it. Here are some of them. (more…)

House Finance Committee work on SB 193, the statewide voucher bill, has been suspended until April 4

Finance Division II Chair Rep. Karen Umberger (R, Kearsarge) opened today’s worksession on SB 193 by saying that the meeting would be recessed until April 4th.  She said that since SB 193 is a senate bill, it does not actually have to cross over until April, so the committee will use that time to do further work on the bill.

The House Calendar (page 2) says that the last day house committees can report out senate bills is April 5 and the last day the House can act on senate bill is April 12.  We will continue to provide scheduling and other updates.

Here is a new amendment to SB 193 as of noon, March 13

Here is the latest amendment to SB 193 developed in response to the Finance Division II public hearing on Friday (here is a version with the new changes highlighted).  This new amendment does not change the analysis offered yesterday, here and here.

It has new language that tightens eligibility a bit.  The required year in public school must come immediately before the ESA grant but kindergarten does not count so that, still, second grade is the first grade in which a student could be eligible.

Also, the special education language has changed.

 

What is in the proposed amendment to SB 193 currently under consideration in the Finance Committee?

SB 193 is complex and at the point, it’s hard for most people to know what is in it.  So here are the essential elements. (more…)

SB 193 should be referred for interim study

Everyone involved in the education debate wants what’s best for New Hampshire kids, but SB 193 has turned out not to be the way to do it.

As different amendments emerge, it’s clear that there is no shared vision and no way to pay even for the more targeted program now under discussion. 

The current SB 193 amendment would, according to the LBA, divert $100 million from local public schools over the first 11 years to send 2,000 students to private schools.  A few families would get their choice of schools at the expense of all the rest of New Hampshire’s public school students, but without assurance of greater educational achievement for those children.  (more…)

Finance subcommittee meeting for tomorrow, Tuesday, March 13 has been cancelled. Here is the new schedule for Finance Committee consideration of SB 193

The Finance Division II subcommittee work session scheduled for 1:00 pm Tuesday, March 13 has been CANCELLED. 

Finance Division II and then the full Finance Committee will meet beginning at 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 14, at the end of which the full Finance Committee will vote on SB 193. 

The full House will vote on SB 193 on March 21 or 22.

The is the time to make your voice heard.  Until March 14, you can email the House Finance Committee (at HouseFinanceCommittee@leg.state.nh.us).  Between March 14 and March 21, call your representatives and follow up with an email (get their contact info here if you know who they are and here if you don’t).